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EPA Settlement with NJIT will Promote Green Chemistry in Local School

Release Date: 01/03/2008
Contact Information: Rich Cahill, (212) 637-3666, Cahill.Richard@epa.gov

(New York, N.Y.)-- A unique agreement between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) in Newark will help usher “green chemistry” into school laboratory experiments at the institute and other colleges and high schools in the area. These green chemistry experiments involve the innovative use of new techniques and technologies in lab experiments, which minimize the need to use reagents, usually some type of solvent, to produce chemical reactions. The agreement grew out of an EPA complaint in which the Agency cited the school for violating federal rules that govern how to handle hazardous waste. It requires NJIT to spend at least $125,000 to showcase greener lab practices and to measure the amount of solvents and energy reductions that can be achieved when practices, such as microwave technology, are used in school laboratory experiments rather than traditional chemistry practices. NJIT must also pay a $31,740 penalty.

“The agreement to adopt green practices in the lab is innovative and trend-setting,” said Alan J. Steinberg, EPA Regional Administrator. “This institution of learning has itself learned a valuable lesson and is now endeavoring to go beyond merely complying with regulations by setting a good environmental example for other schools to follow.”

As part of its project to benefit the environment, NJIT will purchase equipment to help three local high schools get started using enhanced microwave technology, and through publications, seminars and the Internet, promote this faster, cleaner and less polluting lab technique to science educators throughout New Jersey.

The alleged violations that EPA observed during its inspections of the NJIT’s facilities included failure to:

  • determine which of the wastes that it generates are hazardous wastes,
  • obtain a permit to store hazardous wastes, or take the required steps to exempt itself from this permitting requirement,
  • provide proper training to employees handling hazardous waste,
  • keep hazardous waste containers closed,
  • have a contingency plan, and minimize the risk of fires, explosions, and the release of hazardous wastes and hazardous waste constituents.
NJIT has since corrected these violations.

Over the past seven years, EPA has inspected more than 58 colleges and universities and issued administrative complaints with penalties totaling more than $2.7 million against more than 20 colleges and universities in New Jersey, New York, Puerto Rico and the U.S, Virgin Islands. The Colleges and Universities Initiative is an ongoing program with additional investigations anticipated. Educational institutions can self report violations and get relief from a portion of the penalties in exchange. For more information, please visit http://www.epa.gov/region02/capp/cip/. For more information about EPA’s Colleges and Universities Initiative, please visit http://www.epa.gov/region02/p2/college.

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