EPA's College & University Compliance Initiative
In 1999, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 2 began focusing its attention on colleges and universities because they found that many institutions were not aware of their responsibilities under various environmental laws. In some cases, this lack of awareness put their staff and students at risk. EPA inspections conducted as part of this initiative resulted in major enforcement actions that forced institutions to pay millions of dollars for violations uncovered during these inspections, as well as several supplemental environmental projects.
Some details on the EPA program for institutions of higher learning are:
- The EPA holds educational institutions to the same high environmental compliance standards expected of private industry.
- In the past the EPA has found that universities assume many environmental regulations do not apply to them.
- Colleges and Universities are regulated and if found in violation, are subject to penalties and negative publicity, just like any other facility.
- Institutions of higher learning need to commit resources and management attention to meet environmental regulations.
SUNY/EPA Audit Agreement
In 2002, the SUNY system entered into an audit agreement with the U.S. EPA to perform voluntary self-audits and disclosures of most of the 64 SUNY campuses, using an independent auditor over a five year period.
The SUNY/EPA Audit at Stony Brook University was performed by the consulting firm of Woodward & Curran during the week of August 8, 2005. The multimedia environmental compliance audit analyzed Stony Brook's compliance with specific laws and regulations related to air emissions, hazardous waste, storm water, universal waste, oil storage, regulated medical waste, pesticides, asbestos, lead-based paint, PCB's and more. The audit found that Stony Brook's
environmental programs are "fundamentally sound" and in "substantial compliance." The auditors indicated that the air program at Stony Brook is in "excellent shape," and reported that Stony Brook has a very strong hazardous waste management program and system. They also recognized that maintaining compliance at an institution the size and complexity of Stony Brook is a significant challenge. The results of the audit were submitted by SUNY to the EPA. All findings
were corrected within the 60-120 day corrective action period. Environmental Protection is continuing to work with departments and programs to sustain what has been achieved and to ensure compliance with environmental laws and regulations.
» Letter from former Stony Brook University President, Dr. Shirley Strum Kenny
Moving from Compliance to Sustainability
Environmental Health and Safety is working toward the development of an Environmental Health and Safety Management System (EHSMS). The system incorporates the Plan, Do, Check, Act (PDCA) model for improvement, and includes:
- Stony Brook University Policy P609R - Environmental Health and Safety
- Environmental Health and Safety Policies and Procedures
- Standard Operating Procedures (SOP's)
- Training and awareness information
- Employee recognition: "You Got Caught Being Safe" campaign
- Departmental Environmental Coordinators
- Compliance inspections, assessments and Mock Audits
- Environmental Health and Safety Compliance Tracking Database
What Can You Do?
- Ensure that your office has a representative to serve as Environmental Coordinator/Contact for your department.
- Review summary of environmental regulations on the Environmental Health and Safety website.
- Ensure that you and others have received training.
- Use Environmental and Hazardous Waste checklists to perform inspections of your area.
- Promptly correct violations.
- Promote environmental stewardship throughout your area.