Academic journal article Journal of College Science Teaching

Watch Your Waste

Academic journal article Journal of College Science Teaching

Watch Your Waste

Article excerpt

During the programming of a science facility renovation and addition at the State University of New York at Plattsburgh (SUNY Plattsburgh), located in upper New York state, the client (SUNY Plattsburgh) asked how the hazardous waste generated by the various science departments would be collected and stored during the construction of a proposed addition to the science building and the subsequent renovation of the existing science spaces. This question resulted in a study of SUNY Plattsburgh's existing hazardous waste collection, storage, and removal process; existing federal and state regulations regarding hazardous waste collection and storage; and best practices used by similar institutions around the country, which concluded with several recommendations for their storage facilities.

Hazardous waste generated by the science departments at SUNY Plattsburgh consists generally of halogenated and nonhalogenated liquids created during student investigations, some flammable solids, oxidizers, corrosives, and toxins. Because the school generates less than 1,000 kg of hazardous waste per month and less than 1 kg of acute hazardous waste (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's [EPA's] P-code waste) per year, Plattsburgh is classified as a "small quantity generator" of hazardous waste and can, therefore, store the waste onsite for up to 180 days before it must be removed and transported by a hazardous waste hauler approved by EPA/U.S. Department of Transportation [DOT].

SUNY Plattsburgh was originally a "normal" school, created to train high school graduates to be teachers. Current enrollment is 6,000 undergraduates, and its science program is primarily a teaching program with the only research being conducted by faculty with some student assistance. A full-time environmental health and safety associate is responsible for the collection and storage of hazardous waste on a regular basis. The college has recently adopted a policy of "just in time" delivery of chemicals and materials for its science facilities so that these items are delivered directly to the lab for which they were ordered within 24 to 48 hours of receipt, thereby limiting the requirement for significant central chemical and materials storage.


Research for this assignment included studying existing requirements, both federal and state, for hazardous materials storage; gathering "best practices" data from an online search; visiting five colleges and universities with similar enrollments and missions to witness storage facilities and practices; and interviewing Plattsburgh's science faculty to determine the types and quantities of hazardous waste generated and preferred procedures for management and collection of this waste.


Allowable quantities of various types of hazardous waste in a specific storage room (control area) are found in the New York State Building Code, accessible online at st_ny_st_b200v07_3_sec007.htm. This section of the code includes Tables 307.7(1) and 307.7(2) listing the "maximum allowable quantity per control area of hazardous materials posing a physical hazard." This information helps the architect determine the construction requirements for the room or rooms in which the hazardous materials may be stored. The 2003 International Building Code has similar Tables 307.7(1) and 307.7(2) on pages 28-30.

In order to simplify the numerous classes of hazardous waste identified in the two Tables 307.7 so that the Plattsburgh science faculty could reasonably estimate the quantities of each produced during a semester, I developed the following groupings:

* explosives

* flammable solids

* flammable liquids

* dangerous when wet

* oxidizers

* poisons

* radioactive materials

* corrosives

* toxins

* carcinogenic

* other

The Plattsburgh science faculty stated that they produced no explosives, dangerous-when-wet materials, poisons, or radioactive materials. …

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