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Maine Community College System Settles EPA Action for Hazardous Waste Violations
Release Date: 07/12/2005
Contact: Sheryl Rosner (firstname.lastname@example.org), EPA Office of Public Affairs, (617) 918-1865
For Immediate Release: July 12, 2005; Release # sr050704
BOSTON -- The Maine Community College System has agreed to pay $126,600 to settle claims by the US Environmental Protection Agency that it violated regulations on the storage and handling of hazardous materials at Southern Maine Technical College in Portland, and at Eastern Maine Community College in Bangor.
During its inspection of Eastern Maine Community College, EPA personnel identified several containers of waste picric acid, an organic acid that can be highly explosive if managed improperly. Inspectors found these containers near a teaching classroom, accessible to faculty and students. The waste picric acid had formed crystals. Picric acid crystals are friction, heat and shock sensitive and very unstable. These crystals are more explosive than an equivalent amount of TNT.
EPA inspectors secured the area and contacted Maine's Department of Environmental Protection's Emergency Response Unit. A specialized company operated by a former member of the Maine State Police Bomb Squad Unit was contacted and safely detonated these chemicals on-site. The explosive power of the detonated wastes was estimated to equal several sticks of dynamite. In addition, EPA's inspectors identified multiple violations of the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) and Maine Hazardous Waste Management Rules, which govern the safe storage and handling of hazardous wastes.
"The problems at these two campuses 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." More than 5,000 students and faculty use the two campuses.
This penalty action is among numerous enforcement actions EPA's New England Office has taken against universities and colleges across the region as part of its College and University Enforcement and Compliance Initiative. Launched in 1999, the initiative included inspections, extensive compliance assistance, including workshops geared for university environmental compliance personnel, and development of a university compliance web page, which can be visited at https://www.epa.gov/region01/assistance/univ/.
One hundred and seventy-seven colleges and universities participated in the Self-Audit Initiative, audited their facilities and discovered and disclosed thousands of violations covering a wide range of environmental requirements. Gravity-based penalties were waived by EPA as participating institutions discovered, disclosed, and corrected violations of environmental laws. Neither Maine Community College campus participated in this project.
The College and University Audit Initiative has closed, but the regional EPA office has continued its compliance and assistance program while continuing to inspect colleges and universities. Recent examples include EPA actions taken against Fitchburg State College, Southern and Eastern Maine Community Colleges, and Plymouth State University.
College and University Enforcement and Compliance Initiative