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Pollution Prevention

I. The Issue:

In this section I have provided an outline and summary of the pollution prevention initiatives that have been implemented within the Burlington public school system.Pollution Prevention or P2 is an organized effort to prevent the release of hazardous materials to the environment.During this process, we have noted that use of these practices has resulted in the following benefits: 1) a reduction in hazardous indoor air emissions which has enabled us to improve indoor air quality, 2) improved chemical management and safety, 3) improved chemical recycling and disposal practices which have decreased the likelihood of a release to the environment, 4) improved health and safety of the building occupants, and 5) a reduction in the chemical inventory maintained by the school department.Many of the practices we implemented were initiated with either little or no additional cost.In most cases, the change was related to the following: improved operation and maintenance practices, chemical substitution, or process modification (experimental redesign).Any school system could easily adopt our approach.

II. Pollution Prevention Initiatives:

The following is a general list and summary of the P2 activities implemented by the Burlington public school system.

1. A detailed chemical inventory has been prepared by all schools and departments within the system.This step enabled us to identify what materials we had, and where and how these materials were stored. As a result of this exercise, we quickly learned the true size of our inventory and the full extent of redundancy and overstocking in our inventory. We also determined that chemicals were stored inappropriately in the classrooms of all local schools.This information made it possible for us to: a) consolidate our chemical inventory, b) identify potentially hazardous storage activities, and c) identify inefficient purchasing practices.

2.Once the size and nature of the chemical inventory was determined, we made an effort to consolidate the materials.This allowed us to quickly identify obsolete materials no longer used by the staff. In addition, we were also able to identify a large amount of redundancy and overstocking of materials where different teachers or departments had purchased the same material without checking to determine if the material was already available.As a result, we were able to identify and designate obsolete and excess material for disposal.Furthermore, we were able to modify and improve our chemical storage and purchasing practices to alleviate the risk of acquiring additional amounts of a material that was already present within the school system.

3.While consolidating the inventory, the staff identified a number of materials that were no longer used or obviously degraded and no longer useful.As a result, we were able to reduce our chemical inventory further.This enhanced the health and safety of the building occupants. An added benefit of the chemical inventory consolidationwas that as we reduced the size of the inventory we found it easier to provide safe and effective storage for the materials we retained.

4.As part of our consolidation, we reviewed the hazards associated with the materials in our inventory.As a guide, the School Committee adopted formal policies prohibiting the storage and use of carcinogens as well as materials capable of causing genetic damage or birth defects by students.The School Committee also banned the use or generation of material with a hazard rating of 4 as established by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).The NFPA has developed a 0 (no hazard) to 4 (highest hazard) ranking for hazardous materials for use by firefighters and other emergency responders.Using this guide, the staff culled the chemical inventory further.

5.The consolidation of the chemical inventory clearly indicated that improvements in the purchasing and management of materials were needed. Repeatedly, we found large containers of the same materials scattered throughout the school system.In a number of cases the containers had never been opened.In order to prevent the reacquisition of banned materials or chemical overstocking, the school system adopted new chemical purchasing procedures.Each department chairman is now required to review and approve all chemical purchases.The chairman is responsible for reviewing the hazards associated with the material as well as whether the material available elsewhere in the department.

6.Many of the high hazard materials found in the high school science department were found to have been obtained as the result of chemical donations given to the school by local businesses.As a result, the science department had become a means of hazardous waste disposal for local industry.The termination of this practice helped to reduce the volume and toxicity of new materials entering the science department each year.An aside, is that this practice also created a regulatory and storage nightmare for the school because few of the substances were transferred with a copy of their material safety data sheet and consequently the staff was unaware of the hazards associated with the materials.

7.Another observation noted was the 'use it or lose it' purchasing mentality.Much of the staff feels compelled to annually exhaust their budget designated for chemical purchases regardless of whether new materials are needed.This system promotes overstocking and inventory expansion.A sustained effort must be initiated to break or curb this habit.

8.We also trained the staff with regard to the hazards associated with the materials they were routinely using.The hope was that by providing the faculty with a clear understanding of the potential health and safety issues present in their work place, they would now be motivated to look for more benign substitutes.As part of this effort, we also discussed how staff activities could impact indoor air quality and how these actions could be altered to decrease the potential impact. The success of this approach has been limited by a pervasive resistance to change.

9.A review of the hazardous waste disposal practices indicated that few formal policies or procedures existed. Historically, hazardous waste disposal has been at the discretion of each staff member. We adopted formal waste management procedures for the entire school system and established a central hazardous waste storage area in order to provide for secure storage located away from the classrooms.Simple improvements in policies and procedures has significantly enhanced our ability to properly and safely manage chemical waste while also decreasing the risk of an adverse environmental impact.

10.Training has been a major component of our new waste management program.The staff have been trained staff with regard to waste management issues associated with their department as well as informed of local prohibition regarding chemical disposal via the local sewer and the management of universal waste.The intent of this program is to have each faculty member think twice before simply discarding something in a trash can.

11.Efforts have also been initiated to promote the use and adoption of nontoxic chemical substitutes.This can be accomplished by simple one to one substitutions such as latex paint for oil based paint or through process modification or experimental redesignThe individual motivations of each teacher appear to be the key for this effort to be successful.

12.Another initiative has been the introduction and use of microscaling by the science staff.Microscaling is a process where an experiment is redesigned so that 1/10 or less of the original amounts of the reagents are now used in the procedure.As a result, less chemistry is used, fewer emissions and waste are generated, and safety is enhanced. Another benefit is that students and staff members learn to be more precise in their handling of chemicals.A potential drawback may be the need to obtain new laboratory glassware.

III. Lessons Learned:

1.Do not overwhelm yourself. Attempt to address each problem area as you identify it rather than looking for an all encompassing cure all.Also, this approach allows you to make small readily achievable gains.Use these small gains to build up your success with the ultimate goal of establishing a comprehensive pollution prevention and regulatory compliance program.

2.Be creative and open minded .This can be especially important when attempting to redesign experiments or lesson plans. We have found that many solutions exist for decreasing the toxicity of a curriculum.It is important to find one that meets the needs and constraints of your staff and school system.

3.Old habits die hard. Additional motivation may be necessary in order to insure the implementation and use of pollution prevention techniques at your school.

4.In most cases, the adoption or implementation of pollution prevention techniques has enabled the town to realize a cost savings and/or a reduction in long term liability. These benefits can provide strong arguments for expanding these efforts.

IV. Resources:

I have found the following resources to be invaluable when researching pollution prevention measures to be implemented at the local schools.

Massachusetts Office of Technical Assistance
Attn: Lisa Dufresne
100 Cambridge Street, Room 2109
Boston, Massachusetts 02202
Telephone: (617)727-3260
Fax: (617)-727-3827

This agency provides free, non-regulatory technical assistance to schools located in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.This agency also maintains a large database of technical information describing the investigation and resolution of a broad variety of potential environmental, health and safety issues that are commonly found in schools.

Dr. Mono M. Singh, Director
The National Microscale Chemistry Center
315 Turnpike Street
Merrimack College
North Andover, Massachusetts 01845
Telephone: (978)837-5137
Fax: (978)837-5017
e-mail at msingh@merrimack.edu.

The National Microscale Center at Merrimack College has prepared guidance describing the benefits as well as how to initiate a microscale science curriculum.The center also conducts training for those wishing to develop a microscale program.

Center for Safety in the Arts
5 Beekman Street, Suite 820
New York, New York 10038
(212)227-6220

The Center for Safety in the Arts monitors and evaluates a broad range of health and safety concerns involving the arts and theater.This group has also published a large volume of health and safety guidance. They also offer a variety pollution prevention information.

Maryland Department of Education
Office of Administration and Finance
Office of School Facilities
200 West Baltimore Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21201

The Maryland Department of Education has published a number of helpful technical bulletins describing potential EHS issues in schools as well as potential corrective action.

prepared by Todd H. Dresser, Environmental Engineer
(formerly of)
Burlington Board of Health, 29 Center Street, Burlington, MA 01803


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