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EPA and Catholic University to Provide Hazardous Waste Training at Schools University Will Pay Penalty and Spend $141,000 Implementing School Programs

Release Date: 04/19/2005
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FOR RELEASE: Tuesday, April 19, 2005

(#05035) SAN JUAN -- Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico (Catholic University) will implement an innovative environmental management and training program in Puerto Rico, teaching intermediate and high school faculty and staff how to comply with federal and commonwealth hazardous waste management regulations. The program is part of a settlement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), reached after Catholic University was cited in 2004 with violations of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), at its Main Campus in Ponce, Puerto Rico. The settlement calls for the University to pay a $37,000 penalty and comply with hazardous waste management regulations.

Catholic University will spend at least $141,000 implementing a Supplemental Environmental Project (SEP), an environmentally beneficial project that goes beyond compliance with the law, that will require various actions to develop and present hazardous waste management information to intermediate and high schools in Puerto Rico. Under the SEP, the University will review and supplement existing RCRA guidance manuals prepared by other universities, in order to incorporate those RCRA compliance requirements that are unique to Puerto Rico. Catholic University will develop a software based Chemical Tracking System; a complementary CD-ROM; a training video; a training program for teachers and other school personnel on the requirements of RCRA and its regulations; and a corresponding web site accessible to the general public.

"Supplemental environmental projects are effective tools for settling violations because they support projects that provide additional environmental benefits," said Kathleen C. Callahan, EPA Acting Regional Administrator. "In this case, the benefits from the SEP are substantial. The SEP will protect public health in various school districts in Puerto Rico and promote compliance with hazardous waste management requirements at Puerto Rico's intermediate and high schools."

A key component of the SEP is that the University will develop a comprehensive outreach and communication program addressing chemical management and hazardous waste compliance for both private and public schools in Puerto Rico. As part of the program, Catholic University will present at least 20 seminars throughout Puerto Rico to discuss measures to ensure compliance and possible ways to prevent or minimize pollution.

EPA identified the violations at Catholic University and they face penalties because they did not take advantage of a program designed to help colleges and universities meet their environmental obligations. EPA established a "Colleges and Universities Initiative" in 1999 because it found that many such institutions were not aware of their responsibilities under various environmental laws. As part of the initiative, EPA sent letters to colleges and universities in New Jersey, New York, and Puerto Rico; held free workshops to help colleges and universities comply; set up a web site that provides information about their duties under the law; and warned them that EPA inspections of their facilities -- with the risk of
financial penalties -- were imminent. EPA encouraged the institutions to avail themselves of the agency's "
Voluntary Audit Policy", through which institutions can investigate and disclose violations to the agency, and if necessary remedies are implemented, receive a partial or complete reduction in financial penalties. To date, over 76 colleges and universities in New York, New Jersey and Puerto Rico have come forward to disclose more than 800 violations to EPA. They have been granted waivers of $2.4 million in penalties.

Related Links:
Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico Fined for Hazardous Waste Violations
June 2003

Colleges and Universities Initiative
Major Enforcement Actions Against Colleges and Universities in New York, New Jersey, and the Caribbean