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EPA fines Arizona laboratory $30,745 for hazardous waste storage violations

Release Date: 9/29/2003
Contact Information: Wendy L. Chavez, (415) 947-4248

SAN FRANCISCO -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today fined an Oracle, Ariz. laboratory $30,745 for hazardous waste storage violations.

The EPA penalized the Biosphere 2 Center, a non-profit educational and research affiliate of Columbia University, for storing hazardous waste without a permit and for improperly storing lead acid batteries, some of which were cracked or uncapped.

Under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, small quantity generators of waste can accumulate hazardous waste on site for up to 180 days without a permit. On March 25, 2003, an EPA inspector discovered that the facility had been storing over 1000 kilograms of waste for at least 217 days. The laboratory also failed to label and keep hazardous waste containers closed.

"This settlement results in a number of measures that make the facility safer," said Amy Zimpfer, acting director of the Waste Management Division for the EPA's Pacific Southwest region. "We want to put academic and commercial laboratories on notice that these types of violations result in substantial penalties."

The EPA fined the Biosphere 2 center $75,000 in September 1997 for operating a hazardous waste storage facility without a permit and for failing to determine if the waste generated was hazardous.

The center, which is open to the public, includes a 3.15 acre man-made closed ecosystem, made of glass, steel and concrete. The biosphere contains five biomes a desert, a marsh, a savannah, a rainforest and an ocean. Since 1996, the Biosphere 2 Center has been used as a laboratory for conducting global climate change experiments.