Date: Wed, 13 Jul 2005 11:04:45 -0400
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Subject: Maine Community Colleges Settle With EPA - $126,600 Penalty
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Maine Community College System Settles EPA Action for Hazardous Waste

Contact: Sheryl Rosner
EPA Office of Public Affairs,
(617) 918-1865

For Immediate Release: July 12, 2005; Release # sr050704

BOSTON -- The Maine Community College System has agreed to pay
$126,600 to settle claims by the US Environmental Protection Agency
that it violated regulations on the storage and handling of hazardous
materials at Southern Maine Technical College in Portland, and at
Eastern Maine Community College in Bangor.

During its inspection of Eastern Maine Community College, EPA
personnel identified several containers of waste picric acid, an
organic acid that can be highly explosive if managed improperly.
Inspectors found these containers near a teaching classroom,
accessible to faculty and students. The waste picric acid had formed
crystals. Picric acid crystals are friction, heat and shock sensitive
and very unstable. These crystals are more explosive than an
equivalent amount of TNT.

EPA inspectors secured the area and contacted Maine's Department of
Environmental Protection's Emergency Response Unit. A specialized
company operated by a former member of the Maine State Police Bomb
Squad Unit was contacted and safely detonated these chemicals on-
site. The explosive power of the detonated wastes was estimated to
equal several sticks of dynamite. In addition, EPA's inspectors
identified multiple violations of the federal Resource Conservation
and Recovery Act (RCRA) and Maine Hazardous Waste Management Rules,
which govern the safe storage and handling of hazardous wastes.

"The problems at these two campuses were severe and put students and
staff at risk," said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator for
EPA's New England office. "School and college administrators
everywhere need to make sure that environmental and hazardous waste
issues are handled carefully in accordance with federal laws." More
than 5,000 students and faculty use the two campuses.

This penalty action is among numerous enforcement actions EPA's New
England Office has taken against universities and colleges across the
region as part of its College and University Enforcement and
Compliance Initiative. Launched in 1999, the initiative included
inspections, extensive compliance assistance, including workshops
geared for university environmental compliance personnel, and
development of a university compliance web page, which can be visited
at  .

One hundred and seventy-seven colleges and universities participated
in the Self-Audit Initiative, audited their facilities and discovered
and disclosed thousands of violations covering a wide range of
environmental requirements. Gravity-based penalties were waived by
EPA as participating institutions discovered, disclosed, and
corrected violations of environmental laws. Neither Maine Community
College campus participated in this project.

The College and University Audit Initiative has closed, but the
regional EPA office has continued its compliance and assistance
program while continuing to inspect colleges and universities. Recent
examples include EPA actions taken against Fitchburg State College,
Southern and Eastern Maine Community Colleges, and Plymouth State

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