B.C. Seeks More Authority On Handling
Laboratory Waste

By Mark Sullivan
Staff Writer

Boston College has joined with seven other New England universities in seeking more authority to manage its own laboratory wastes.

As part of the Laboratory Consortium of Environmental Excellence, the University is helping devise an environmental management plan that will allow institutions to police themselves under guidelines that uphold federal standards while "making sense" in a research laboratory context, according to Environmental Health and Safety Director Suzanne Howard.

Boston College would be one of three universities in the region allowed to self-regulate its laboratory wastes under the new guidelines if the Environmental Protection Agency approves a proposed three-year pilot project, Howard said.

Howard said current rules on hazardous waste don't distinguish between industry and scientific research and laboratory research can become unnecessarily tangled in a thicket of federal regulations.

"EPA regulations were developed for manufacturing, not labs," Howard said. "Manufacturing facilities use large amounts of a relatively few number of chemicals, while labs use a large variety of chemicals in small amounts. Meantime, manufacturers are not doing research and development. They know the product that will result, but this is not necessarily the case for laboratories."

Through the consortium, the universities would devise ways of reducing the amount of waste produced by their labs, Howard said, and help local high schools and community colleges develop their own waste regulation programs.

"For example," said Howard, "you currently have three days to move a full container out of a lab. We might put forward a standard that allows the container to be moved in 10 business days. What we're trying to put forth to the EPA is that the risk associated with hazardous wastes in labs is minimal."

Howard said the consortium submitted a draft plan to the EPA in January and is negotiating a final version that would be tested in a three-year pilot project to be launched this summer. The University of Massachusetts at Boston and the University of Vermont also would participate in the pilot project.

The other members of the consortium are Harvard, Northeastern and Tufts universities, Trinity College of Hartford, and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

Return to April 23 menu

Return to Chronicle home page