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Cleaning out the Labs

New EPA program to help middle and high schools eliminate excess chemicals

by Cheryl Hogue
April 19, 2004


To reduce the number of chemical spills and accidents at middle and high schools, EPA is launching a new initiative to clean out old and unused materials from school laboratories.

Spills and accidents involving toxic, ignitable, and reactive chemicals pose risks to students and staff and cost EPA, states, and local school districts tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars to clean up, according to the agency. The new initiative is designed to prevent these incidents in part by arranging for collection or disposal of laboratory chemicals that are no longer used.

Under the initiative, EPA or state environmental regulators will conduct in-school audits of laboratories, identify collection or disposal options, and provide information on pollution prevention and safe chemical management. EPA intends to launch a “Clean Out Your Chemicals Week” this summer, before students return for the 2004–05 school year.

This work will be targeted initially at school districts with older facilities and limited budgets, where EPA hopes to make the biggest impact. The agency intends to work with the Department of Education, the National Science Teachers Association, and the National Education Association in implementing the initiative.

The multiyear program will begin modestly. A March 16 memo from EPA hazardous waste and pollution prevention officials says each of the agency’s 10 regional offices around the country will get $20,000 to $25,000 for the cleanup program from EPA’s Washington, D.C., headquarters in coming months. Each region is asked to provide matching funds.

According to an EPA spokeswoman, the agency will officially unveil the initiative later this spring.



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