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U.S. EPA Files $111,199 Complaint Against Manhattan College for Hazardous Waste Violations

Release Date: 07/19/2002
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(#02074) New York, N.Y. -- Manhattan College, located in the Bronx, New York, faces a $111,199 penalty for alleged violations of hazardous waste regulations. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as part of its ongoing efforts to ensure environmental compliance by institutions of higher learning, has issued an enforcement action against Manhattan College alleging violations of federal and New York State laws that provide for identification, storage, treatment and disposal of hazardous wastes. The action also includes an order that requires Manhattan College to comply with these laws. The hazardous waste that is the subject of the complaint includes mercury, arsenic, spent solvents and paint, used fluorescent light bulbs, used computer monitors and other wastes generated by or used in the Manhattan College print shop, labs and maintenance facilities at its two Bronx facilities.

"Manhattan College handles a range of hazardous substances in its educational and maintenance facilities and has failed to follow regulations written to protect the public health and the environment from the potential dangers of hazardous wastes that result from these everyday activities,” said Jane M. Kenny, EPA Regional Administrator. “While Manhattan College is now working to correct these violations and prevent their occurrence in the future, this enforcement action was avoidable,” continued Ms. Kenny.

The civil complaint, the basis for the proposed penalty, charges Manhattan College with three violations of the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, which ensures that hazardous waste is managed from “cradle to grave” in an environmentally sound manner. The complaint alleges that Manhattan College: failed to determine whether certain solid waste it generated constituted hazardous waste; stored hazardous waste without obtaining permits or interim status; and failed to respond as directed to two information request letters sent by EPA.

The compliance order requires Manhattan College to determine the extent of hazardous waste generation on its campuses, resolve its hazardous waste permit violations, and comply with all pertinent regulations, including development of practices that ensure the safety and protection of students and staff.

Within 30 days of the compliance order, Manhattan College is required to comply with applicable federal and state requirements, and to submit a written notice of such compliance. If Manhattan College is not in compliance, it must state the reasons for the noncompliance and provide a schedule for achieving prompt compliance. Manhattan College has already begun to put the resources in place to comply with this order. The college also has the option to contest the facts alleged in the complaint, request a hearing on the issues raised by the complaint and compliance order, and/or enter into negotiations to reach a settlement agreement with EPA to modify the amount of the proposed penalty.

In 1999, EPA Region 2 started the Colleges and Universities Initiative because it found that many such institutions were not aware of their responsibilities under various environmental laws. As part of the initiative, EPA informs colleges and universities of the benefits of the Agency’s Voluntary Audit Policy under which facilities can investigate and disclose violations to EPA and, if the necessary conditions are met, receive a partial or complete reduction in financial penalties. The Colleges and Universities Initiative began with outreach to the universities and promoted compliance incentive programs (such as the Audit Policy). EPA inspects colleges and universities that do not disclose violations, and, when necessary, pursues enforcement actions. Prior to this action, as part of the outreach effort, EPA held workshops to help schools comply, provided them with information about their duties under the law and warned them that official EPA inspections of their facilities – with the risk of financial penalties – were imminent.

To date, 48 colleges and universities in the region have come forward to disclose violations to EPA. Twenty-five of those 48 schools were granted a 100% waiver of gravity-based penalties. Fourteen cases are still under review and the others have been partially approved. EPA has signed agreements with Rutgers University and the State University of New York ( SUNY) by which those schools have committed to long-term auditing and disclosure schedules in exchange for the benefits of the Audit Policy. The Colleges and Universities Initiative is an ongoing program.

When Manhattan College did not notify EPA of its intention to conduct any self-auditing of its facilities, it became subject to an investigation and inspection in December 2000 that revealed the violations cited in the complaint.

More information on EPA’s Voluntary Audit Policy is available.

Colleges and Universities Initiative