Academic Labs Get A Break | Chemical & Engineering News
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Web Date: November 19, 2008

Academic Labs Get A Break

EPA changes hazardous waste rules for colleges and universities
Department: Government & Policy
Amanda Yarnell/C&EN
Credit: Amanda Yarnell/C&EN
Amanda Yarnell/C&EN
Credit: Amanda Yarnell/C&EN

Colleges and universities will have greater flexibility in how they will handle hazardous waste from chemistry and other on-campus laboratories under an EPA regulation released on Nov. 18.

Academic institutions generate small amounts of a variety of hazardous wastes at many sites across their campuses. The new rule will free them from prescriptive EPA regulations designed for industrial settings that produce large quantities of a small number of hazardous wastes at a few locations. Institutions of higher learning have sought modification of these EPA standards for years.

One of the biggest changes in the rule involves the location where colleges and universities determine whether a waste is hazardous. Under current rules, this determination must be made where the waste is generated, generally at a laboratory. The new rule gives institutions greater flexibility, allowing the determination to be made at a laboratory, at an on-campus central waste collection area, or at an on-site facility that treats, stores, or disposes of hazardous waste.

In addition, the rule encourages use elsewhere of unwanted chemicals that a lab gets rid of during a cleanout. Instead of being disposed of as hazardous waste, the new rule would allow these materials, such as solvents, to be used by another laboratory at the same institution.

The rule applies to colleges and universities, as well as teaching hospitals or nonprofit research institutes that are either owned by or formally affiliated with colleges and universities.

Academic institutions are still analyzing the details of the rule, which won't take effect until early 2009.

"EPA has made some changes we'll really like, and they've also made some changes we won't like as much," says Anne C. Gross, vice president for regulatory affairs at the National Association of College & University Business Officers, one of several groups seeking the regulatory modifications. "But I'm relieved to finally have something after all these years. We're definitely willing to work with it going forward."

The rule is available at

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