Apr 032005
Authors: Kyle Endres

CSU plans to clean up its hazardous- and radioactive-waste disposal efforts through a roughly $1.5 million new building.

As part of approximately $7.7 million in construction funding given preliminary approval by the state's Joint Budget Committee, CSU will build a new facility to store waste materials generated on campus.

"Our current facility is rather rough, crude and vastly in need of improvement," said Keith Ickes, vice president for administrative services.

The new building will replace the Hazardous Storage Building located on the south end of the main campus.

"This was built, I think it was 1984, and I think it was built for about $64,000 back then, which we thought was really expensive," Earlie Thomas, director of Environmental Health Services, said with a laugh as he gave a tour of the current building.

The new facility will be built on the South Campus north of the Veterinary Teaching Hospital and will act as a holding facility for materials EHS employees pick up on campus. These materials result from research projects and classroom instruction. It is not certain when construction for the building will begin because the state legislature and the governor must approve the funding and the building plans must be finalized.

Dominic Leffler, hazardous-waste manager for EHS, said EHS worked with Facilities Management to outline what was necessary for the new building, but the roughly $1.5 million funding offer came up a little short.

"From what I saw, the funding was actually about a million dollars less than what we wanted," Leffler said.

The original building request called for about $2.3 million, he said.

Environmental Health Services will try to obtain more money through exterior funding, possibly through the federal government. The fact that the new building will offer improved security may help.

This security concern – along with size and location issues – is one of the primary reasons the current building needs to be replaced.

"From a security standpoint it's not the most secure area. We don't have any cameras on there, we don't have any alarms on there," Leffler said.

The new building will have cameras and space to have an EHS presence in the facility, something not possible at the smaller building.

Hazardous waste is defined either by its characteristics – such as if it is flammable, corrosive, reactive or toxic – or if the Environmental Protection Agency classifies it as hazardous, Thomas said.

On campus, hazardous materials used by professors and/or researchers are held in satellite accumulation stations, which are located in each of the labs. When hazardous material needs to be removed from the labs, EHS employees collect it, transfer it to the waste facility and sort it by chemical type. Every person who might come into contact with hazardous waste is required to undergo training through EHS, including the principal investigators for research studies.

After the material is transported to the holding facility, waste-disposal contractors process the waste materials and transfer them to 55-gallon drums for pickup. Thirty to 40 drums are sent out of the facility approximately every 90 days, Thomas said.

"This material is tracked from cradle to grave. We know where every container came from, we know who used it, we know everything that's in each one of those containers," he said.

There is also a difference between hazardous waste and radioactive waste, although some materials can be classified as both.

Hazardous waste materials are stored on CSU's main campus, whereas radioactive materials are stored on the Foothills Campus – despite the fact that most of the radioactive waste is generated on the main campus. The mixed-waste materials are stored in a temporary holding facility next to the Hazardous Storage Building.

"What we want to do is have one facility that can have everything in one location," Thomas said. "This puts it on the outskirts of campus rather than having a hazardous-waste truck driving through the middle of campus."

Thomas said he is unsure what will happen to the current waste facility, which has to be completely cleaned and decontaminated. He said it is unlikely the building will be demolished.

"We're not big on demolishing buildings here at CSU," he said. "There are some buildings here that are older than our great-grandparents."

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