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Fitchburg State College Agrees To $205,000 Settlement for Hazardous Waste Violations

Release Date: 06/17/04
Contact Information: Contact: Peyton Fleming, EPA Press Office, (617) 918-1008

For Immediate Release: June 17, 2004; Release # 06-04-21

BOSTON -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced it has settled an enforcement action against Fitchburg State College in Fitchburg for hazardous waste handling and storage violations. The college agreed to pay a $50,000 fine and undertake two environmental projects valued at $155,000.

The settlement stems from an EPA inspection in April 2002 which found multiple violations of hazardous waste handling and storage regulations on campus. The most significant violations involved reactive wastes improperly stored between two functioning classrooms. These wastes could have exploded, releasing toxic vapors.

Inspectors also found numerous containers of unknown materials and improperly marked wastes. Some of the wastes were in a degraded condition or had been stored in unsound containers. The college had not made a determination as to whether these wastes were hazardous. After the EPA inspection, about 6,500 pounds of hazardous waste were shipped off-site. Some of the most dangerous materials had to be removed using remote robotic equipment.

"The problems at Fitchburg State College were severe and put students and staff at risk," said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator for EPA's New England Office. "School and college administrators everywhere need to make sure that environmental and hazardous waste issues are handled carefully in accordance with federal laws."

Fitchburg State had been previously notified of hazardous waste management deficiencies on campus through an environmental audit conducted for the college in November 2001, and by memos from various employees to college administrators.

Under the settlement announced today, Fitchburg State will pay a cash penalty of $50,000. The college also agreed to have independent environmental audits of their facilities conducted annually for three years and to implement a formal Environmental Management System for the campus, at an estimated cost of $100,000. Lastly, the college will purchase an emergency coordination and transport vehicle valued at $55,000 for the town of Fitchburg's fire department.

The settlement is among more than a dozen enforcement actions EPA's New England Office has taken against colleges and universities as part of its College and University Initiative. Launched in 1999, the initiative has included enforcement actions against Boston University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Rhode Island, the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and other colleges and universities in the region.

The initiative was launched after EPA inspectors noticed generally poor compliance during their visits to universities, which typically have large numbers of laboratories and other operations generating a large array of toxic chemicals. In addition to enforcement activities, the initiative includes extensive compliance assistance, including workshops geared for university environmental compliance personnel and a university compliance web page at

EPA New England is also conducting a College and University Audit Initiative, in which colleges and universities can disclose and correct violations before an EPA inspection occurs. By making such disclosures, participants become eligible for significant penalty reductions or elimination. More than 175 university facilities in New England are participating in this program and more than 125 self-disclosures have been received and reviewed to date. Information is available by following the general college and university assistance link above. Fitchburg State College has not participated in this project.

Related Information:
EPA New England College and University Web site