Hazardous waste a major, but manageable issue

“We have to track everything from cradle to grave and that’s what we do on this campus,” said Environmental Health and Safety’s (EHS) Danelle Chavez in a recent presentation on hazardous waste management.

Chavez began by defining hazardous waste as listed waste and characteristic wastes. Listed wastes are determined by the EPA, but as Chavez said, “We’re more worried about characteristic waste.” Characteristic waste is any waste which is ignitable, corrosive, toxic, or reactive. Ignitable wastes are liquids with flash points less than 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Corrosive wastes have a pH less than 2 or greater than 12.5. Reactive wastes liberate cyanide or sulfide gas when exposed to air, and toxicity is determined based on concentration of compounds.

The first step in managing hazardous waste is to properly store the waste. It ought to be put into appropriate containers, such as those available in Chauvenet and Coolbaugh Hall, and should be segregated by type and stored safely.

A large component of handling hazardous waste is focused around the management of Satellite Accumulation Areas or SAAs. These are “temporary waste accumulation areas near the point of waste generation.” Chavez explained an SAA”needs to be within the vicinity of your lab. It can’t be two labs down, it can’t be one floor up.” Suggested locations include fume hoods, the floor, and chemical storage cabinets.

Waste stored in these areas needs to be clearly designated using pink labels provided by the Environmental Health & Safety office (EHS). These labels must be specific and complete, including the constituents and concentrations of the constituents as well as the researchers’ information. “Make sure everything on your waste tag is identified,” said Chavez.

SAAs must also be neat as they may be inspected by the state of Colorado at any time. “They can come whenever they want to,” said Chavez. These inspectors look for such issues as “dirty, crusty reagent containers,” improper or unsafe chemical storage, open or leaking containers, and lack of training.

Chemicals cannot be stored in an SAA for more than six months. Additionally, more than 55 gallons may also not be accumulated. EHS makes rounds to collect chemicals; researchers merely need to provide the appropriate information. “Submit your waste when containers are full,” rather than waiting for an inspection notice, Chavez said.

In addition to properly managing waste, Chavez urged researchers to minimize waste. Unused chemicals can be returned to the CSDF storage facility. Only the necessary amounts of a chemical should be reported. Spills should be avoided and labs kept clean.

Attending hazardous waste safety training is mandatory for anyone researching with chemicals or ordering chemicals from the school supplies.

Copyright © 2020 The Oredigger Newspaper. All Rights Reserved.