Thursday, October 29, 1998

CU, CSU held to industrial standards on toxic-waste laws

DENVER (AP) - The $395,000 penalty leveled against Colorado State University last week for violating toxic-waste laws shows once again that the state's largest universities are now held to the same waste standards as industry. Last year, University of Colorado campuses in Boulder, Colorado Springs and the Health Sciences Center in east Denver were ordered in 1997 to spend $347,000 on cleanup and educational programs. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment took over enforcement of hazardous-waste laws from the Environmental Protection Agency in 1984. "Universities are relatively new at integrating hazardous-waste control into daily work," said Fred Dowsett of the health department's hazardous-waste division. "That focus can be hard to get in a complex organization." A major problem universities have with handling such waste is faculty and researchers create the waste and administrators are in charge of properly disposing of it, health officials said. CSU last week was ordered to perform $395,000 worth of community cleanup projects and facility upgrades in place of a cash fine for a series of violations discovered during 1995 and 1996. CSU's violations included improper labeling, storing and transporting of mixtures of radioactive and hazardous waste, the byproducts of campus laboratory experiments. Last year, CU agreed to a non-cash settlement for violations on three campuses discovered during inspections in 1994 and 1995, according to health department records. Violations included illegal storage of hazardous waste, failure to train waste handlers or identify hazardous materials and failure to make sure containers were closed during storage. CU's Health Sciences Center, for example, illegally stored containers of mixed radioactive waste for as long as five years instead of the 90-day limit. CU's penalties resulted in improved tracking of chemicals and the development of educational hazardous-waste safety curriculum.