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EPA Settlement with UMASS Amherst Resolves PCB Violations and Requires Cleanup of PCB Contamination at a Building on Campus

Release Date: 09/12/2012
Contact Information: Paula Haschig, 617-918-1027

(Boston—September 12, 2012) EPA and the University of Massachusetts, Amherst (UMASS) have reached a settlement that will resolve violations of federal polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) regulations at the Lederle Graduate Research Center.

After completing a $4 million dollar caulk decontamination project in 2009, UMASS discovered that the window glazing at the Lederle Graduate Research Center was contaminated with high levels of PCBs. Further sampling of the window glazing revealed PCBs at concentrations of 50 ppm or greater , which are levels not authorized for use under the PCB regulations.. The long-term remedy called for in this settlement requires replacing and disposing of all 900 PCB-contaminated windows currently installed at the Research Center, at a cost of about $3 million dollars. The long-term project is expected to take fifteen years, and will allow UMASS to plan for and incorporate this capital expense into other building upgrade projects.

To reduce the likelihood of unsafe exposure to PCBs while the long-term project is taking place, EPA has approved an interim plan to encapsulate the contaminated window glazing. The settlement also requires a comprehensive long-term monitoring and reporting plan. That plan requires UMASS to take annual surface wipe and air samples, address any exceedances of cleanup levels, and report results. The cost of implementing the interim measures is about $560,000. The settlement agreement also includes a $75,000 civil penalty that will be waived if both the long term remediation plan and interim encapsulation plan are completed.

With limited exceptions, PCBs are no longer manufactured, but may be present in products and materials produced before the 1979 PCB ban. These compounds are persistent in the environment. PCBs have been demonstrated to cause cancer, as well as a variety of other adverse health effects on the immune system, reproductive system, nervous system, and endocrine system. Some buildings built or renovated between 1950 and the late 1970’s still contain PCBs. Although the PCB regulations allow certain uses of PCBs to continue, they do not permit the continued use of PCBs in caulk or window glazing if the PCBs are present in concentrations of 50 ppm or greater. If identified, these materials must be removed. EPA enforces the PCB regulations through the Toxic Substances Control Act.

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