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Clarkson University and EPA Reach Agreement on Hazardous Waste Management

Release Date: 03/01/2005
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For Release: Tuesday, March 1, 2005

(#05016) NEW YORK - Clarkson University in Potsdam, New York, has agreed to pay a $45,000 penalty and comply with hazardous waste management regulations to settle a complaint brought by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). As part of EPA's ongoing Colleges and Universities Initiative to protect the health of those working at and attending institutions of higher learning, the Agency took action against Clarkson for past violations of federal and state laws that provide for the safe handling and storage of hazardous wastes. Clarkson also entered into a separate agreement with EPA to conduct self audits of its campus facilities and operations. The self audit agreement, a major incentive of the initiative, covers all major federal environmental programs.

"Clarkson not only saw that EPA is inspecting facilities to enforce the law, it also realized the advantage of a voluntary self audit agreement with EPA," said EPA Acting Regional Administrator Kathleen Callahan. "Clarkson must pay a penalty, but others can avoid this by volunteering for self audits before an EPA inspection."

In addition to paying the $45,000 penalty, Clarkson has agreed to follow hazardous waste regulations. The university will put practices into place to determine if the wastes it generates are hazardous and comply with requirements to properly store incompatible wastes and regulations that allow for the short-term accumulation of hazardous waste without a permit. Clarkson also volunteered to hold a three-hour environmental management seminar at its Potsdam campus for the administrative staff of high schools in St. Lawrence, Franklin, and Jefferson Counties that will help the schools comply with environmental laws and regulations.

EPA established its Colleges and Universities Initiative in 1999 because it found that many such institutions were not aware of their responsibilities under various environmental laws. As part of the initiative, EPA sent letters to colleges and universities in New Jersey, New York, and Puerto Rico; held free workshops to help colleges and universities comply; set up a Web site that provides information about their duties under the law; and warned them that EPA inspections of their facilities with the risk of financial penalties were imminent. EPA encouraged the institutions to avail themselves of the agency's Voluntary Audit Policy through which institutions can investigate and disclose violations to the agency and, if the necessary conditions are met, receive a partial or complete reduction in financial penalties.

EPA continues to encourage colleges and universities to participate in the Colleges and Universities Initiative. To date, 93 colleges and universities in New York, New Jersey and Puerto Rico have come forward to disclose more than one thousand violations to EPA. Most of them have been granted a 100% waiver of potential penalties totaling more than $10 million.

EPA has inspected 48 colleges and universities and has issued administrative complaints with penalties totaling more than $2.1 million over the past four years against 14 colleges and universities in New Jersey and New York and Puerto Rico. The Colleges and Universities Initiative is an ongoing program with additional investigations anticipated.