h ttp://www.signonsandiego.com/news/2010/jan/05/hazardous-materials-case-set tled/ Hazardous materials case settled School district to spend $750,000 on fines, hiring By Mike Lee, UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER Maureen Magee, UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER Tuesday, January 5, 2010 at 12:01 a.m. SAN DIEGO =E2=80=94 San Diego Unified School District officials have agreed to spend more than $750,000 on fines, new hires, training and audits to settle a $1.26 million complaint from the county alleging widespread violations of laws governing hazardous materials. The agreement comes more than five years after county "hazmat=E2=80 =9D inspectors surprised science classes with impromptu inspections, showed up unannounced at auto shops to scrutinize oil storage and checked wood shops to see if chemicals were properly labeled. The unprecedented classroom inspections of at least 10 campuses and other sites highlighted numerous alleged problems with underground storage tanks and handling of various toxic compounds. Regulators at the county Department of Environmental Health said they are not aware of any students being harmed, but said that poor labeling, improper storage, incomplete records and faulty backup containment systems raised the risks for fire, indoor air pollution and groundwater contamination. "I hate to single them out, but we did because they are largest=" school district in the county, said Mike Vizzier, chief of the county=E2=80=99s hazardous materials division. "The effect was to bring almost all of the others up to the standard very quickly.=" At least two other districts, Sweetwater Union High and Santee, have been cited for similar violations since 2004, but those problems were on a much smaller scale than San Diego=E2=80=99s. The penalty is among the 10 largest of its kind countywide since 2002. Vizzier praised San Diego Unified for making upgrades even before the penalty was finalized Dec. 22. The county could have pressed for $2.4 million in fines, but it knocked off more than $1 million because of the school district=E2=80=99s efforts to fix the problems. "If somebody asked me what is a model (district) now, I would say, =E2=80=98Why don=E2=80=99t you see what San Diego Unified is doing.=E2=80=99=E2=80=89=" The district has paid a $40,500 penalty; agreed to hire at least five new employees =E2=80=94 a combination of positions that range from 12- to 24-month assignments; and conduct audits of waste management, among other things. In exchange, county officials agreed to give schools notice before making further inspections. "We=E2=80=99re not sure what prompted this, we just know these kind of inspections were new to San Diego Unified,=" said environmental lawyer Cyndy Day-Wilson, an outside attorney hired by the district to handle the case. "Overzealous inspectors, that was our position. Inspectors just showing up in the middle of class =E2=80=A6 checking to see if chemicals were properly labeled or if lids were on tight.=" County officials also found problems with the way the district stored used oil, antifreeze and other chemicals at its transportation center, which houses school buses. Alleged violations popped up in at least 10 district sites, including Kearny High, Hoover High, Point Loma High and Horace Mann Middle School. Day-Wilson said the district was in the midst of correcting many of the problems at the time of the county inspections. The district never admitted to wrongdoing, Day-Wilson said. Even so, the school board approved a consent order, a document detailing a settlement in the case, last month.=EF=BB=BF The district has already started hiring some of the new positions =E2=80=94 just as it prepares to eliminate others due to anticipated budget cuts. The district is poised to cut up to $220 million from its $1.2 billion operating budget next year due to state reductions in education spending. Most of the $750,000 in expenses to the district comes from more than $600,000 to hire the extra personnel. It also includes about $60,000 in legal fees. The district faces additional costs to satisfy other mandates in the consent order. For example, the district must train biology, chemistry, art, auto shop and woodworking teachers on waste management and establish hazardous waste business plans. === http://www.postandcourier.com/news/2010/jan/05/pharmacy-emptied-over-chemi cal-leak/ South Carolina Pharmacy emptied over chemical leak Tuesday, January 5, 2010 Charleston firefighters evacuated a Rite Aid pharmacy Monday night in West Ashley after pharmacy employees reported that a chemical was leaking from a drum in the pharmacy's photo lab. Firefighters were dispatched to the store about 8:20 p.m., said Mark Ruppel, public information officer for the Charleston Fire Department. Until they could determine the nature of the material that was leaking, firefighters followed standard procedures for unknown chemicals and evacuated the store, Ruppel said. It was later determined that the leaking material posed no danger, Ruppel said. The store was reopened at 9:15 p.m. The St. Andrews Fire Department assisted city firefighters in handling the incident, Ruppel said. === http://www.ocregister.com/news/envelope-226961-powder-uci.html 4 UCI women get threatening letters THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER IRVINE =E2=80=93 The number of UC Irvine employees receiving envelopes containing a mysterious white powder and the words 'Black Death' rose to four late today, leading the university to wonder why it is being targeted and why all the letters were sent to women. All four letters came from Idaho, and the powder the envelopes contained has been examined and determined to be harmless, said Tom Vasich, a university spokesman. UCI will hand out plastic bags on Wednesday so that employees and students can quickly seal any suspicious looking mail they get. The university also is closely screening all mail sent to UCI. Campus officials believe all four envelopes arrived over the Christmas holiday. The latest victim was Benedicte Shipley, an assistant dean in the School of Biological Sciences. She received a letter with the mysterious powder at 4:30 p.m., leading fire, hazmat, public health and law enforcement officials to return to campus. The envelope arrived on the fifth floor of Natural Sciences II, a research building that is less than a five minute walk from the Information and Computer Sciences building, where Diana Tien, an undergraduate counselor, received one of the letters at 9:30 a.m. today. "We don't know why this is happening; it's a mystery," said Cathy Lawhon, UCI's media director. "Police are looking to see if there is a connection between the four people, all of whom are women." On Monday, sociologist Cynthia Feliciano and chemical engineer Nancy Da Silva, received the first two menacing letters. UCI turned off the air and heating system to the ICS building, and later cordoned off Natural Science II, which houses researchers who work in the biosciences and chemistry. (more at web site) === Alabama http://blog.al.com/spotnews/2010/01/post_340.html Metro Birmingham emergency responders resolve chemical spill, without incident By Carol Robinson -- The Birmingham News January 05, 2010, 4:50PM A hazardous materials spill at Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Railway has been cleared, authorities said. The spill happened when a tanker ruptured and spilled dry sodium chlorate. The spill happened at the company's facility at 1801 Fourth Street West, said Birmingham fire Battalion Chief C.W. Mardis. The amount was described as a chute full of the substance. Sodium chlorate is an oxidizing agent used to make chlorine dioxide for bleaching and stripping of textiles, pulp, and paper, Mardis said. It is also used to disinfect and purify water. The scene was cleared about 3:30 p.m. === Australia http://news.smh.com.au/breaking-news-national/qld-highway-closed-due-to-ch emical-spill-20100105-ls09.html Qld highway closed due to chemical spill January 5, 2010 AAP More than five hours after a chemical spill diversions remain in place around the accident site on Queensland's major highway. The northbound lanes of the Bruce Highway were closed after about 15,000 litres of liquid caustic soda spilt across the roadway from a tanker at Kallangur, north of Brisbane. Queensland Fire and Rescue Service crews were notified shortly after 1pm (AEST) and applied a neutralising agent to the chemical. They said the clean-up process would take a number of hours. There is no threat to people in the area from the chemical, commonly used in household cleaning agents. There were no reports of injuries, although the driver of the vehicle was reportedly shaken. At 6.15pm (AEST) on Tuesday emergency services remained on site cleaning up. A police statement said they were in the process of re-opening two lanes for traffic travelling north. The remaining lane will remain closed for some time to allow for the clean-up. Traffic is still being diverted and traffic congestion, which stretched for kilometres during the evening commute, remains. === http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/wire/sns-ap-us-flights-susp ended,0,1146789.story Suspicious luggage at 2 airports causes evacuations in Minneapolis, flight delays in Calif. MARCUS WOHLSEN, TRACIE CONE Associated Press Writers January 5, 2010 | 6:46 p.m. FRESNO, Calif. (AP) =E2=80=94 Seemingly suspicious pieces of luggage delayed flights at two airports Tuesday, prompting evacuations in Minneapolis and closing a California airport where authorities discovered what turned out to be soft drink bottles filled with honey. A passenger's suitcase tested positive for TNT at Bakersfield's Meadows Field during a routine swabbing of the bag's exterior, Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood said. When Transportation Security Administration officials opened the bag, they found bottles filled with an amber liquid, he said. The bag's owner, Francisco Ramirez, told TSA officers that the bottles were filled with honey, Youngblood said. Further testing confirmed that honey was the only substance present in the bottles, said FBI spokesman Steve Dupre. No traces of explosives were found. "Why in this day and age would someone take a chance carrying honey in Gatorade bottles?" Youngblood said. "That itself is an alarm. It's hard to understand." At the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, a bomb-sniffing dog indicated there was something suspicious about a piece of luggage, causing authorities to call a bomb squad and clear parts of the airport for more than an hour. But the bag was never put on a flight and nothing suspicious was found, officials said. The piece of luggage was only a placeholder airline employees put on the luggage carousel to signal to other employees that all the bags have been unloaded from a flight, airport spokesman Patrick Hogan said. In airport jargon, it's called a "last bag." "It was kind of a beat-up old bag that was simply used as a marker," he said. Investigators in California said Ramirez flew to Bakersfield Dec. 23 to spend Christmas with his sister and was returning Tuesday. The 31-year-old gardener from Milwaukee was not arrested and was cooperating with authorities, officials said. When TSA agents opened one of the five bottles and tested the contents, the resulting fumes nauseated them, Youngblood said. Both were treated and released at a local hospital. The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Office bomb squad was performing further tests to determine why at least two positives were recorded for both TNT and the organic explosive acetone peroxide, or TATP. Bakersfield is about 110 miles north of Los Angeles. Investigators want to know whether any chemical Ramirez uses in his gardening work could have left traces of potential explosives. They will also run tests on the substance to see if the smoke beekeepers use to subdue the insects could have triggered a false positive test on honey. All flights into and out of Meadows Field were canceled for much of Tuesday as authorities searched the terminal for other potential explosives.
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