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EPA, Hawai'i DOH announce completion of University of Hawaii environmental projects

Release Date: 8/5/2004
Contact Information: Dean Higuchi, (808) 541-2711

Released Jointly by U.S. EPA and Hawai'i Department of Health

UH spends $1.2 million to eliminate more than 13,000 pounds of pollution annually

HONOLULU -- The University of Hawai'i recently completed its environmental projects as part of a February 2001 settlement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Hawai'i Department of Health for hazardous waste violations.

The projects reduced hazardous waste pollution and waste generation at the university by more than 13,000 pounds annually. Through the projects, the university also reduced the amount of chemicals it has to purchase and store, and reduced students', faculty and staff exposure to hazardous chemicals.

"We applaud the university for turning a problem area into an opportunity by instituting progressive pollution prevention and waste reduction practices," said Jeff Scott, director of Waste Programs for the EPA Pacific Southwest Region. "The university's efforts resulted in increased safety for students, staff and faculty, as well as the entire community. The university should be proud of its accomplishments."

As part of the agreement:

-The university converted the undergraduate organic chemistry curriculum to microscale at the University of Hawai'i's Manoa and Hilo campuses and several community colleges. Microscale chemistry uses smaller quantities of chemicals and reagents and special glassware to demonstrate the
basic concepts in chemistry classes and results in less waste, less student exposure, and fewer chemical purchases. The participating labs can cut chemical use and waste generation by more than two-thirds.

-The university spent $207,000 to convert the Honolulu Community College print shop to a digital printing system. This eliminated nearly all
printing-related wastes, including silver-based developers, inks and solvents. This eliminated the need to purchase and use more than 11,000 pounds of hazardous chemical in a year, most of which end up as hazardous waste.

-The university established a program to remove and replace mercury-containing equipment to reduce the risk of mercury spills and improve safety for university faculty and staff. The program replaced more than 1,300 pieces of mercury-containing equipment, totaling nearly 10 pounds of mercury.

-The Manoa campus and four community colleges adopted new techniques and equipment to improve paint spray efficiency in auto body repair
classes. These techniques reduced paint and solvent use, waste generation, and air emissions of volatile organic compounds, reducing exposure to
teachers, students and the community. The university instructors made the methods available to auto body professionals in Hawai'i through
demonstrations and workshops, to transfer these best practices to the industry. Auto body repair facilities using these techniques can cut their air
pollution by 30 percent, and their paint use by 25 percent.

-The university completed a $140,000 project to identify pollution prevention and waste minimization projects throughout the university system.

"The projects that were developed and completed will serve as a foundation for future pollution prevention and waste minimization efforts at the university,"said Roy Takekawa, director of the University's Environmental Health and Safety Office. "We are continuing to seek opportunities to reduce the amount of waste we generate and to implement policies and procedures to educate the university community about these issues."

The settlement with the EPA and the Hawai'i Department of Health required the university to perform the $1.2 million in environmental projects as part of a total $1.7 million settlement. The university also paid a $505,000 cash penalty. Under the terms of the settlement, $120,000 was paid to the U.S. government and $385,000 was paid to the state.

"The implementation of these projects show the university's commitment to improve their environmental practices," said Larry Lau, deputy director of the Hawai'i Department of Health's Environmental Health Administration. "We encourage all of the regulated community to learn from the university's example and look to pollution prevention as a way to improve their practices, save money, and protect the environment."

EPA and Hawai'i Department of Health inspectors began investigating two facilities on the Manoa campus of the University of Hawai'i in October 1997. Inspectors found improperly stored and labeled chemicals including flammables, corrosives, poisons, mercury and hundreds of other unknown chemicals. The Department of Health continued to inspect other facilities within the university system and found similar violations at the Kauai Agricultural Center and the Waiakea Agricultural Experiment Station in Hilo. All of the chemical waste has since been removed from these university locations and treated or disposed of properly.

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