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University of California steps up to audit its environmental management program

Release Date: 11/8/2004
Contact Information: Laura Gentile ( gentile.laura@epa.gov ) - 415/947-4227 (desk) or 415/760-9161 (cell)

UC handles more than one million pounds of hazardous waste each year

SAN FRANCISCO -- As part of a far-reaching initiative, the University of California and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently completed a comprehensive audit of its environmental management practices, including its handling of more than one million pounds of hazardous waste per year, at nine campuses statewide.

The University of California volunteered to audit its programs under an agency policy that provides incentives to industries and universities that audit their own environmental programs. Under the policy, facilities audit themselves, report their findings to the EPA and take steps to prevent future violations.

"We applaud the University of California's leadership in finding its own violations and identifying opportunities to prevent pollution through a systematic internal auditing program," said Jeff Scott, director of the EPA's waste division for the Pacific Southwest region. "As one of the country's premier learning institutions, UC's efforts set an example for other colleges and universities to take a proactive approach to lessen pollution."

"UC is deeply committed to operating in a safe and environmentally responsible manner, and these audits were very helpful in evaluating our success and suggesting areas for increased attention," said Johnny Torrez, director of facilities management and environmental protection services for the UC system. "As a result, we have redirected our resources to further improving compliance so that better control is achieved at each and every stage of the hazardous waste management process."

By volunteering to audit its own environmental management program, the university collected valuable information on improvements that need to be made and provided a more comprehensive picture of its program than would have been possible through agency inspections.

As a result of the audit, UC reported close to 100 violations of hazardous waste regulations, such as storage without a permit and missing or unreadable labels on various types of containers. The university handles paint and solvent wastes, acids, cyanides, and silver photochemical wastes. Most violations were corrected at the time or shortly after the audit.

Under the policy, the EPA often reduces or waives penalties for violations if the facility meets the provisions of the policy. In this case, the EPA reduced the university's penalty to $9,750.

The university spent more than $1 million auditing 47 campus facilities, including agricultural research stations, nine campuses, and medical and veterinary schools. The university audited campuses in Davis, San Francisco, Berkeley, Irvine, Riverside, Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles and San Diego. The university evaluated its compliance against most federal regulations, including hazardous waste management, risk management, and emergency planning and preparedness requirements.

Two hundred thousand students attend the nine UC campuses across the state. The university system employs 160,000 faculty and staff.

The EPA continues to encourage colleges and universities nationwide to participate in the voluntary self-audit program. For more information, please refer to the EPA’s website: http://www.epa.gov/compliance/incentives/auditing/auditpolicy.html