Iowa State University

Inside Iowa State
March 31, 2000

EPA violations add up to fines, on-the-job hazards

by Linda Charles
A simple labeling error, such as putting the word "waste" on a container of used oil, is a violation of Environmental Protection Agency regulations and could result in a fine to the university.

The EPA recently warned colleges and universities to tighten their procedures for managing hazardous wastes and emphasized ignorance of the rules is no excuse, said David Inyang, director of Iowa State's environmental health and safety (EH&S) department. Violations of EPA regulations can result in massive fines to the university, he added.

More important than the threat of fines is the threat to the university community when safety and proper environmental management procedures are not followed, Inyang said. Improper storage of hazardous chemicals can turn deadly if a fire breaks out. Incorrectly handled chemical spills can destroy a laboratory and put everyone in the building at risk. Even tossing the remains of a cleaning solvent in the trash could endanger the unsuspecting worker who empties that bin.

In many cases, EPA regulations require employees who generate or work with hazardous wastes to attend specific training. Departments are responsible for ensuring that employees receive that training, as well as keeping work areas free of hazards. Supervisors are responsible for documenting safety training of employees. And employees are expected to know and follow safety and environmental regulations.

Staying abreast of EPA and other agencies' regulations can be overwhelming.

That's where EH&S comes in, Inyang said. The department has programs on general safety, industrial hygiene, biological safety and radiation safety. The staff also offers environmental programs, including chemical spill consultation, chemical surveys, hazardous waste management and pick up, PCB management and disposal, universal waste management and unknown chemical identification assistance.

Inyang said the department particularly is concerned that university employees know how to deal with hazardous wastes. Department staff offer three courses that address this:

EH&S provides on-site training to departments for groups of 15 or more. The Hazardous Waste Generator Training will be offered from 9 to 11 a.m. Friday, April 14, in 4 Agronomy Laboratory. Additional sessions can be arranged. Registration is required and may be completed by phone, 4- 2193, or online ( A complete list of EH&S courses is available online.

Iowa State homepage

Inside Iowa State,, University Relations
Copyright © 1999, Iowa State University, all rights reserved

Revised 03/30/00