EH&S audits UCSD

As part of a national effort by the Environmental Protection Agency, UCSD Environment, Health and Safety will conduct campuswide audits in October and November to determine environmental law compliance at UCSD.

The EPA’s request comes after its evaluations of other campuses around the nation yielded poor findings.

The agency’s goals are to ensure that UCSD and the UC system comply with state and federal environmental protection laws. It will focus on hazardous waste management, chemical inventory, chemical release reporting and emergency preparedness planning.

To ensure and promote participation, the EPA is allowing UCSD to perform self-disclosing audits and to report legitimate findings by Jan. 25, 2002. Areas of concentration include all laboratories, chemical waste storage areas, vehicle maintenance areas, shops, art departments, medical facilities, athletic facilities and all other areas where hazardous wastes are stored, handled, transported, used or disposed of.

“”The intent of the audit is to make us take a critical look at how we’re handling things and correct all problems that we find,”” said EPA audit coordinator Larry Oberti.

Oberti will organize the audit. A staff of 15 to 18 members of EH&S, headed by Director Stephen Benedict, will conduct the audits.

“”The EPA has been applying industry laws to colleges and universities on the East Coast since the early ’90s,”” Oberti said. “”They found many violations that resulted in serious consequences.””

Most noncompliant colleges received heavy fines. Colleges penalized this year include the University of Hawaii, Yale University, the University of Georgia, Georgetown University, Virginia Tech, the University of New Hampshire and the University of Arizona. Fines ranged from $60,000 to $2.6 million.

Even though UCSD falls into Region Nine of the EPA’s jurisdiction, an area that has been scrutinized before, this will be the first time that the EPA has performed audits in the UC system.

In years past, San Diego County has conducted annual checks of UCSD’s environmental compliance.

The most recent evaluations by the county show that in all departments, waste tag and labeling issues were among the most common violations. Other frequent violations included the presence of containers stored too long and the training of university employees. Even though the majority of the personnel had training documentation, less than 10 percent had any record of training from previous years. These numbers are consistent in all departments across campus.

“”I think the vast majority of our hazardous waste is handled sufficiently.”” Chemical Safety Officer Jim Kapin said. “”However, in any situation with large quantities of chemicals, there will be some problems.””

According to the county evaluations, the majority of hazardous waste at UCSD is handled properly and complies with all current regulations.

To encourage university participation in its program, the EPA will decrease the penalties for schools that perform the self-disclosing audits.

“”If we’re proactive in identifying and resolving the problems, the EPA will be more inclined to be light on penalties,”” Oberti said.

UCSD and EH&S stand firmly behind their environmental policies and their commitment to protecting the environment and maintaining an environmentally sound campus.

The UCSD environmental policy is intended to conduct activities in a healthy, safe and environmentally sound manner. It provides for a pollution prevention program and is a guide for minimizing the release of hazardous materials into the environment, conserving energy and resources, addressing past environmental issues and meeting established environmental policies.

The university is also looking to educate faculty, staff and students on environmental impacts. Chancellor Robert C. Dynes said the university intends to maintain compliance with current environmental laws and regulations, measure environmental performance through regular auditing, and establish an Environmental Management Council to deal with environmental concerns.

“”UCSD is committed to full compliance with all environmental, health and safety laws,”” Dynes said. “”To that end, the campus is developing innovative and integrated management systems … that will ensure that UCSD continues to set an example of responsible environmental stewardship and acts as a leader in providing a safe and healthy workplace.””

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