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Facility Maintenance Decisions

Closing raises stakes for hazmat management

By Dan Hounsell   Material Handling

AS IF MANAGING hazardous materials needed to be more complex. A development long in the making but overlooked for years now very likely means managers involved in overseeing their organizations’ hazmat programs will have even more to worry about.

As the article by Jeffery C. Camplin makes clear, the task is complex and evolving, and it is more scrutinized than ever, given the growing concerns about the impact that institutional and commercial facilities have on the environment.

Long on the back burner of the federal government’s efforts to enforce environmental protection laws, universities and hospitals in recent years have received more attention because of the presence of hazardous materials in their facilities. These materials come in many forms, from schools’ cleaning chemicals and paints to hospitals’ chemicals and medical waste.

It’s this last category of materials that now is creating more headaches for managers.

The end of the road
On July 1, 2008, a landfill in South Carolina that has received and housed shipments of low-level radioactive waste will cease operation. Radioactive trash from facilities — including nuclear plants — in 39 states has been arriving at the site since 1971.

Among the materials shipped to the landfills over the years are protective clothing and gloves, tools, cleaning rags, lab equipment, measuring devices and equipment used to treat cancer patients. Most of this waste is classified in the lowest-hazard class.

The challenge now for managers is that once the landfill stops accepting shipments, they will have to store this material on site instead of shipping it. Some organizations already store their hazardous waste on site, but now they might be forced to store all of it, and some organizations that have never done so might have to start.

The situation seems all too ripe for problems.

Solutions probably will come from discussing the issue in-depth with peers to learn about their decisions on disposal and storage, as well as tapping into resources available from national associations that track these types of issues and have developed guidelines and networks. Managers can even turn to federal enforcement agencies, who also offer consulting help — the proverbial carrot accompanying the regulatory stick.

For a list of resources, see the sidebar article.

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  posted on 1/1/2008   Article Use Policy

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