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EPA Targets
Public and Private University Campuses
for Environmental Compliance

Thursday March 8 2:16 AM ET

By BRIAN CAROVILLANO, Associated Press Writer

PROVIDENCE, R.I (AP) - The federal government believes a dirty
secret lies beneath the rolling green lawns and ivy-clad walls of the
nation's colleges and universities: pollution.

The Environmental Protection Agency has charged dozens of public
and private schools in the last three years with improperly storing
hazardous lab chemicals and polluting the air, ground and water.

``Our inspectors have not been on one campus where they have not
found serious problems
,'' said Rene Henry, a government relations
director for the EPA in Philadelphia.

Boston University was fined $750,000 in 1997 after a ruptured tank
leaked 1,000 gallons of oil into the Charles River. Brown University
in Providence was fined $500,000 in November for an oil leak and
for improperly disposing lab chemicals.

And in December, the University of Hawaii was hit with the largest
EPA fine on a university ever: $1.7 million for hazardous waste
violations at campuses on three islands.

Some university administrators question whether they should be
held to the same standard as private industry, especially since
researchers rarely deal with as much hazardous material as big

``Should the same standard apply for a 50-gallon drum and for
a five-milliliter vial?'' asked Lawrence Gibbs, head of environmental
compliance at Stanford University.

The EPA started to focus on colleges and universities once pollution
from industrial sources had been greatly reduced over the last three
decades, EPA Boston spokesman Mark Merchant said Wednesday.

The agency did not know the exact number of schools sanctioned,
but said colleges and universities in nearly every part of the country
have been fined.

``They've long been given a wide latitude on environmental compliance,''
said Henry. ``Now we're finding the casualties.''

But some college administrators say the casualties are mounting
inconsistently. They say the way each EPA office enforces its rules
is frustrating.

``We've heard from faculty that comes to Stanford from other parts
of the country that there is a more intrusive set of regulatory conditions
here,'' Gibbs said.

Henry said each EPA region has different priorities, which may lead
to sporadic enforcement. Both sides are discussing setting uniform
environmental standards in all 10 EPA regions.

The EPA's Boston office has collected more than $1 million in fines
since making university enforcement a priority two years ago, mailing
notice of their focus to New England's 258 schools.

The EPA's mid-Atlantic and Southwest regional offices have fined
Georgetown University, Villanova University, the University of
Virginia, George Washington University and Hawaii.

The EPA urged universities to ensure that their institutions comply
with federal law, especially the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act
and the safe removal of PCBs, asbestos and lead paint.

The American Council on Education last year urged universities
to heed the warning, saying that ``from the regulator's vantage point,
your campus is a chemical plant.

The potential problems are huge, from the chemicals used to treat
patients in campus hospitals to photographic solutions in the art
department to unsafe air conditioners and unhealthy runoff.

EPA scrutiny prompted Boston University to draft tough new
internal environmental safeguards and dig up most of its oil tanks.
The school has since changed many of its buildings to natural gas.

The university spent another $500,000 cleaning up a contaminated
neighborhood garden and redirected parking lot drainage to keep
runoff away from the Charles River.

``The EPA forced us to look at more efficient, cost-effective
practices,'' said Peter Schneider, of Boston University's Office
of Environmental Safety and Management.
``In the long run,
good environmental management system will save the university

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