The Johns Hopkins Gazette: September 5, 2000
September 5, 2000
VOL. 30, NO. 1


University Slated for EPA Audit

By Greg Rienzi
The Gazette
Johns Hopkins Gazette Online Edition

The university and some of its local affiliated institutions are slated for an Environmental Protection Agency audit, likely to come before year's end.

The impending audit is part of a larger effort on the part of the EPA to ensure that colleges and universities nationwide are complying with environmental laws and regulations. The federal agency is currently comprehensively auditing schools within its Region III, which encompasses the mid-Atlantic states.

In addition to the two main campuses at Homewood and in East Baltimore, off-premises offices, Bayview Medical Center, APL and tenants of the university throughout the Baltimore-Washington area also could be inspected, according to John Schaefer, the environmental health officer with the university's Department of Health, Safety & Environment. SAIS, the Montgomery County Campus and the Columbia Center are not expected to be included in the audit, said Schaefer, who has been in contact with a senior official in the EPA's regional office in Philadelphia.

University officials expect that if the audit does not come before the end of the calendar year, it will occur next spring.

"I suspect [the EPA] will wait until all the students are here and classes are in full swing before they come in and look things over," said Schaefer, an assistant professor of occupational health medicine at the School of Medicine.

Region III universities already inspected include Georgetown, George Washington, Penn State and the University of West Virginia. Earlier this year several New England colleges and universities were audited, among them Harvard, Yale, Boston University and MIT.

Fines levied against institutions during this higher education sweep have ranged anywhere from $2,000 to more than $2 million. Examples of infractions cited have been the improper handling and disposal of hazardous waste materials, boilers and furnaces not being in compliance with clean air regulations and the improper labeling of bottled laboratory chemicals, such as not listing a chemical's common name and the date it was first stored.

Schaefer said that Hopkins is "well ahead of the curve" in complying with many federal environmental mandates, but with regulations covering more than 10 volumes, it would be unrealistic to be assured the university is in full compliance.

"This is a big issue; it is not only about the proper things to do--and we are doing all the proper things--but fines and citations can take away monies from other programs," Schaefer said. "What was acceptable 30 or 40 years ago in terms of disposal is not acceptable now."

Based upon audits recently conducted at comparable-sized institutions, Schaefer said the university will probably receive a half-day's notice before the inspection begins and should expect that EPA officials will be on site for approximately one week. In addition to inspecting such facilities as research laboratories and physical plants, the inspection team also will conduct random interviews with Hopkins personnel to glean whether or not they are aware of proper environmentally safe procedures.

Department of Health, Safety and Environment staff are available to meet with departments or individuals to discuss any concerns regarding the audit and to go over current federal environmental regulations and guidelines. To arrange for a meeting, contact Schaefer at 410-955-5918 or