State inspection of UNM finds 30 hazardous materials violations

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – A state inspection of the University of New Mexico’s hazardous materials compliance turned up 30 violations, with allegations that UNM mishandled and mislabeled chemicals.

The surprise inspection occurred in March. Problems were found in a number of different campus buildings leading to the violations. They include:

  • Some hazardous waste containers had cracked lids, were rusty or were leaking.
  • Treating hazardous materials without a permit in the Biology Building
  • Leaving hazardous waste containers open
  • Improperly labeled waste containers, including used oil in unlabeled containers at the Automotive Center
  • Not having a proper emergency plan in case hazardous material is released

“They all play into a culture of safety,” said Kathryn Roberts, head of the state’s Resource Protection Division. “It’s always concerning to see violations of our regulations.”

Roberts says the violations “possibly” put students and faculty and UNM at risk. Also worrying to the state is that some of these are not new problems.

“Some of these are repeat violations from previous inspections,” said Roberts. “Folks on the ground there are not managing their waste appropriately.”

The state does give the university some credit for beefing up its training program.

In its response to the notice of violations sent by the state, UNM denied some of the problems cited were violations but also discussed steps it had already taken to fix others.

UNM declined to answer KRQE News 13’s questions about the state’s allegations on camera, but did release a statement reading in part:

The University of New Mexico recognizes the critical importance of the safe handling and proper disposal of chemicals in campus facilities. The review by the New Mexico Environment Department inspectors found no allegations of the improper release of any waste. Most are minor and have been addressed. Some indicate a difference in interpretation of the standards between UNM and NMED. UNM will continue to work closely with NMED to provide updated training of students, staff and faculty to better meet state regulations.

Each violation could cost UNM up to $10,000 per day in fines, however Roberts says the final penalty has not been determined and the state and UNM are in discussions about a resolution to this case.

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