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.