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EPA Alleges Hazardous Waste Violations at University of D.C.

Release Date: 11/16/2000
Contact Information: Ruth Wuenschel, (215) 814-5540

Ruth Wuenschel, (215) 814-5540

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency alleges that the University of the District of Columbia has violated several provisions of federal hazardous waste law at the school’s Van Ness campus on Connecticut Avenue. The allegations are outlined in an EPA complaint against the university’s board of trustees.

Inspectors from EPA and D.C.’s Departments of Health and Consumer and Regulatory Affairs visited the UDC campus in November 1999 and April 2000 and discovered multiple hazardous waste violations. The inspections were done as part of an overall initiative to achieve environmental compliance at colleges and universities throughout the mid-Atlantic region. So far, UDC is one of eight schools that have been inspected, and the EPA plans to continue the initiative into the year 2001.

“Colleges and universities should set an example for their student bodies and their communities,” said Bradley Campbell, EPA’s regional administrator. “We think of industrial plants as the major polluters, but schools must comply with environmental regulations as well, and they must be held to the same standards.”

EPA’s complaint alleges that the university was 1) storing in a garage basement and on a loading dock drums of trichloroethylene waste, or used solvents, and several other corrosive and ignitable materials without a permit 2) improperly labeling those drums, and 3) not keeping the drums properly sealed to prevent spills or leaks.

According to the complaint, the school also lacked a contingency plan which would be followed to minimize health hazards in case of an emergency, such as a fire, explosion or leak. Additionally, no staff member had received the required training in hazardous waste management, nor was there an emergency response coordinator designated in case of an accident.

For the years 1995 through 1999, UDC allegedly did not submit to the D.C. government an annual report of its hazardous waste activities. And, finally, the school did not adequately respond to information requests from the EPA, sending in responses that were late and incomplete.

In sum, the nature and extent of the violations reveal a complete lack of compliance with federal and district regulations governing the management of hazardous waste. The violations were compounded by the fact that a substantial amount of hazardous waste, approximately 13,000 pounds, was being stored at the university for an extended period of time.

In addition to seeking a civil penalty, EPA has ordered the board of trustees to immediately cease storing hazardous waste at the university and to come into compliance with all applicable federal, state and local laws and requirements governing the management of hazardous waste. The hazardous waste has already been shipped off site for proper disposal.

The EPA can propose a maximum penalty of $27,500 per day per violation. The university may request a settlement conference or a hearing to contest the violations.