Hazardous Waste Settlement Leads to School Cleanups in 60 Schools in R.I. and Mass.

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Boston, Mass. -- A commercial waste handler in Rhode Island has agreed to pay a fine of $58,278 and to spend $252,152 to clean hazardous chemicals out of approximately 60 schools in Rhode Island and Massachusetts in order to settle EPA claims that the company violated state and federal hazardous waste laws at a facility in Providence, R.I.

Northland Environmental and its owner, PSC Environmental Services, will remove chemicals from 60 high schools and middle schools within a 50-mile radius of their Providence facility at 275 Allens Ave. where the violations occurred. The companies have agreed to pack up and properly dispose of both hazardous and non-hazardous wastes stored at the schools; to do hazardous waste training for science and art teachers; and to purchase safety equipment such as storage cabinets for flammable chemicals, eye washes and deluge showers for classrooms where hazardous chemicals are used. This project will be done over 18 months during times when the schools are closed.

EPA alleged that Northland/PSC Environmental Services violated the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) and state hazardous waste laws by failing to properly identify certain hazardous wastes and failing to properly maintain hazardous waste tanks and containers. These alleged violations could have resulted in the release of hazardous wastes to the environment. The company also stored incompatible hazardous wastes next to one another, creating a potential for fire or explosions. The company quickly came into compliance after the violations were identified.

“All facilities that generate or manage hazardous wastes have an obligation to make sure they carefully adhere to the environmental requirements that result in safer, cleaner communities,” said Curt Spalding, regional administrator of EPA’s New England office. “This case will have a positive outcome, since the projects under this settlement will help provide safer classrooms at many schools in Rhode Island and Massachusetts.”

The school clean outs will involve removing outdated and unwanted chemicals from schools at no cost to the participating schools. Chemical management is often a low priority for schools and it is not uncommon for school science departments to have outdated and unneeded stock chemicals present.

“I want to thank the EPA and the Cranston School Department for working cooperatively to provide a safe environment for our students,” said City of Cranston Mayor Allan Fung.

“We are pleased to see funds from EPA actions like this reinvested in making Rhode Island a cleaner and safer place,” said Terrence Gray, P.E., Associate Director for Air, Waste and Compliance at the RI Department of Environmental Management. “For many years, DEM has directly supported school districts across Rhode Island by removing old and unnecessary chemicals, but that effort has always been limited by the resources we have available. This recent investment extends this important initiative so that more of these dangerous materials can be taken out of our schools, providing a much safer environment for students and educators.”

“The science classroom environment is of the utmost importance as we work to support teaching and learning for students and teachers. Safety is our first concern so we were delighted to have a partnership with the EPA Integrated Chemical Management Program (ICM) who worked with our science teachers to inventory, organize chemicals, with regards to safety and to the benefit of classroom use. Working with this program provided our teachers with invaluable insights with regards to managing chemical supplies. The ultimate goal is to maximize safety and learning of science inquiry in Cranston Public Schools,” said Dr. Judith Lundsten, Superintendant Cranston Public Schools.

Rhode Island schools within a 50-mile radius of the Northland facility were sent emails letting them know of this opportunity to have toxic, hazardous, or chemicals prohibited by the state removed by participating in this project. Schools that were interested provided a list of the chemicals that need to be removed. Cranston, R.I. is using the opportunity to provide both East and West High School with chemical cleanouts before school starts on Aug. 27.

In addition to paying the fine and completing the environmental project, Northland/PSC has agreed to make sure the Providence facility remains in compliance with federal and state hazardous waste management regulations.

Northland/PSC’s Providence facility accepts and handles a broad spectrum of wastes including acids, alkalis, flammable wastes, water reactive wastes, cyanides, sulfides, oxidizers, toxic wastes, oily wastes, photochemical wastes and laboratory packs. Hazardous and non-hazardous wastes are received, stored and or consolidated and then shipped off site for treatment or disposal.

More information on hazardous waste management: http://www.epa.gov/region1/enforcement/waste/index.html

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