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Clean up on aisle U

Well before sunrise on Monday, Sept. 26, a team of University of Utah Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) and Emergency Management personnel, Salt Lake City fire fighters and police officers, Utah Highway Patrol and EnviroCare, met on the U campus to remove four legacy metal cylinders filled with a potentially dangerous chemical that was used in research decades ago. The team also coordinated with the F.B.I and Utah Army National Guard to meticulously plan the operation for months due to the dangerous nature of the cylinder contents. Although the cylinders were safely stored in a fume hood, the age of the containers meant that they no longer met U.S. Department of Transportation requirements for shipment, and they could not be treated and disposed by regular methods. The hard work and commitment to safety paid off—the team successfully removed the cylinders and safely denatured and disposed of their contents.

A group of workers talk to each other in the early hours of the morning.

PHOTO CREDIT: Michael Brehm

The team meets to go over the removal and disposal plan.

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The pre-dawn event sounds dramatic, but it’s just one unstable chemical collection and disposal coordinated and organized by the U’s Regulated/Hazardous Waste Team, headed by EHS regulated waste Manager manager Steve Natrop. Many researchers and clinicians utilize hazardous substances in their work, following strict safety protocols under the oversight of EHS. Waste chemicals on campus are meticulously recorded electronically, then collected and managed by EHS to prepare for off-site disposal.

“Our EHS team is committed to making the university a safer place. For example, a lab space partnered with EHS, and this same chemical compound was properly used and disposed of by routine means,” said Natrop. “It’s when items  get set aside for perceived future use, or are passed down over time to incoming researchers that the hazards and the costs greatly increases.”

“The cutting edge nature of research at the university, and the training of our next generation of scientists, engineers, and health care professionals, requires the use of hazardous chemicals, biological materials, and even radioactive compounds.  These materials are subject to rigorous safety requirements, from cradle to grave. Properly handling the hazardous waste from these operations requires a highly skilled and trained team of professionals,” said Fred Monette, director of EHS.

The Regulated/Hazardous Waste Team provides a variety of support to the campus community, including:

  • Consultation/meetings/training
  • Documentation and records management
  • Facility and equipment reviews
  • Regulated/hazardous materials inventories and management plans
  • Hazardous waste collection and removal for disposal
  • Shipping dangerous goods
  • Inspections and audits of practices
  • Coordinating disposal services
  • Policy and procedure development
  • Waste minimization and recycling efforts
  • Pollution prevention program development and management

Instructors and researchers are highly encouraged to work with the EHS team early to reduce or eliminate the use of hazardous materials, and to promptly dispose of any unneeded or unwanted chemicals to avoid expensive and complicated operations down the road.

“With these partnerships and the support of many Departments across campus, the U provides expert healthcare and innovative research while operating in a safe and environmentally compliant manner,” says Associate Director for Environmental Compliance Michael Brehm.