EPA Proposes $358,000 Penalty Against Fitchburg State College for Waste Violations

Contact: Peyton Fleming, EPA Press Office, 617-918-1008

For Immediate Release: February 27, 2003; Release # 03-02-13

BOSTON - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced that it has proposed a $358,518 penalty against Fitchburg State College in Fitchburg, MA for violations of hazardous waste laws last year. The proposed penalty stems from violations found during EPA inspections at the college's 90-acre campus in April 2002.

According to the complaint, EPA inspectors found several containers of improperly stored reactive hazardous wastes in a room at the Condike Building adjacent to two active classrooms. Reactive hazardous wastes may potentially explode and/or release toxic vapors. Inspectors also found numerous containers of unknown materials and improperly marked wastes in the Anthony and Condike buildings. The college had not made any determination as to whether these wastes were hazardous. Some of the wastes were in a degraded condition or had been stored in unsound containers. The materials were ultimately removed from the campus as hazardous waste. In addition, memos obtained from Fitchburg State College by EPA indicate that employees repeatedly brought these conditions to the attention of college administrators prior to EPA's inspections.

"The college's failure to follow basic rules of handling and storing hazardous waste put students and employees, as well as the environment, at an increased risk of harm," said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator of EPA's New England Office. "Hopefully, the college now realizes that it is less costly and safer for everyone when the school is in compliance with our nation's environmental laws."

This action is the latest of numerous enforcement actions EPA's New England Office has filed against colleges and universities as part of its College and University Initiative. Launched in 1999, the initiative has also included enforcement actions against Boston University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, as well as other colleges and universities in the region.

The initiative was launched after EPA inspectors noticed generally poor compliance during their visits to universities, which typically have large numbers of laboratories and other operations generating a large array of toxic chemicals. In addition to enforcement activities, the initiative includes extensive compliance assistance, including workshops geared for university environmental compliance personnel and a university compliance web page at http://www.epa.gov/region01/assistance/univ/

EPA New England is also conducting a College and University Audit Initiative, in which colleges and universities can disclose and correct violations before an EPA inspection occurs. By making such disclosures, participants become eligible for significant penalty reductions or elimination. More than 175 university facilities in New England are participating in this program and more than 125 self-disclosures have been received and reviewed to date. Fitchburg State College has not participated in this project.

 

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