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Inside Iowa State
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November 30, 2001

EPA inspections anticipated spring semester

by Anne Krapfl
Appropriate disposal processes are in place and employee training is available 24 hours a day, but David Inyang remains vigilant about all the hazardous waste generated in ISU laboratories more than 60 tons annually. Inyang, who leads Iowa State's Environmental Health and Safety department, has reason for concern.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which enforces federal legislation such as the Clean Air Act and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, is looking harder at college and university campuses. For years, the EPA focused on industry, while campuses remained a low priority. But in the last decade, it has leveled some large fines in higher education $100,000 at Drake University and $1.7 million at the University of Hawaii last year, for example. At Iowa State, fines are paid by the units that incur them.

"Manufacturers generate a lot of waste, but each plant probably has not more than a dozen waste streams," Inyang said. "Campuses are like little cities, with lots of buildings and functions that create thousands of waste streams, from a small vial of this to a 55-gallon drum of that."

Earlier this fall, provost Rollin Richmond and vice president Warren Madden sent copies of a set of laboratory checklists to all deans, directors, lab supervisors and principal investigators (PI), to assist with compliance self-tests.

EPA visits to university campuses in the four-state EPA region of Iowa, Nebraska, Missouri and Kansas are expected to begin in earnest by April, but also could happen before then.

Inyang's strategy always has been to focus on preventing problems: training people to identify, label, store and remove hazardous wastes from their labs as the laws require.

"Compliance depends on the person in charge of a lab, and her or his knowledge of and enthusiasm for complying," he said simply.

Employee turnover can be a hindrance to compliance because it's difficult to find and train everyone, Inyang said. But he is working with vice provost for research Jim Bloedel to develop a process that identifies new research employees as they arrive at Iowa State and provides them with the training they should have.

Since 1999, Inyang's department has offered an online training center to allow employees to work through training classes at their convenience. More than 600 people have taken a training course electronically. For more information on the online training center, visit this Web site:

Inyang said there are more than 1,200 research labs on campus, not including Ames Laboratory facilities.

"We can't police them all," he said. "The professors-in-charge and the P.I.s have to be the enforcers. That's where proper training comes in."

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