Date: Sun, 26 Jul 2009 12:16:50 -0400
Reply-To: List Moderator <ecgrants**At_Symbol_Here**UVM.EDU>
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From: List Moderator <ecgrants**At_Symbol_Here**UVM.EDU>
Subject: AP: Environment Dept. handling chemicals found at UNM

Interesting that AP thinks this is a story of national interest...

- Ralph

Environment Dept. handling chemicals found at UNM

Friday, July 24, 2009 By The Associated Press SUE MAJOR HOLMES
(Associated Press Writer)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - Someone left 68 containers of chemicals on a
sidewalk outside the University of New Mexico's chemistry building -
including some chemicals listed by Homeland Security as items that
should be tracked.

The state Environment Department, which is investigating, said UNM
officials reported there was a note with the containers describing the
material as a "donation."

"Clearly leaving them on a public sidewalk is not a good solution. It's
dangerous for the public and could get you in a lot of trouble," James
Bearzi, chief of the department's Hazardous Waste Bureau, said

A spokeswoman for UNM, Susan McKinsey, said the chemicals do not belong
to the school.

"As far as we know, some unknown entity left 68 boxes on our campus as
a donation," she said.

Members of UNM's staff discovered the chemicals July 13 and secured
them because of concerns they could be a health threat. UNM believes
they were left the previous weekend.

Bearzi, who plans to be on campus Friday, said UNM reported nine
containers had items listed by the Department of Homeland Security as
chemicals of interest - materials that should be tracked because they
could become components of explosive, chemical or biological devices.

Those include peroxide-forming chemicals UNM described as being in
various states of stability, and explosive, highly reactive metals and
toxic substances, the Environment Department said.

Peroxide is a strong oxidizer and is very reactive, Bearzi said.

The chemicals also included sodium metal that was put into mineral oil,
which Bearzi said indicates someone knew how to handle that chemical.

"Sodium metal can spontaneously combust and detonate. It's a very
dangerous material," but someone contained it properly, he said.

The 68 containers, liter-size or smaller, were packed in five boxes,
Bearzi said. He said he was told there was an inventory with the boxes.

"We're not talking about huge quantities but with something like sodium
metal you don't need a huge quantity," he said.

The Environment Department has hired a contractor, Eberline Services,
and subcontractor, Advanced Environmental Services of New Mexico, to
work with UNM to arrange for removal of the chemicals.

The department is using the Hazardous Waste Emergency Fund to remove
and dispose of the materials. Bearzi said the agency is investigating
partly to recover its costs.

The Environment Department said abandoning the chemicals is considered
illegal dumping, which carries a penalty of up to $10,000 a day under
state law.

Since the chemicals were small quantities properly organized, agency
officials speculate they may have come from a small laboratory-type
operation that went out of business or did not need the material anymore
but did not know how to deal with it, Bearzi said.

Commercial entities with such chemicals to get rid of should call the
Hazardous Waste Bureau for help, Bearzi said.

Albuquerque's hazardous waste department can tell households how to
dispose of small quantities of hazardous waste, and many communities
hold household hazardous waste disposal days for such things as old
paint, thinners, solvents, drain cleaners or pesticides, he said.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material
may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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