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DEP Helps Improve School Safety with Laboratory Chemicals Training and Cleanout

Harrisburg, PA – With the new school year approaching, 11 schools in seven counties are protecting students’ safety by improving management of laboratory chemicals in the 2017-2018 Schools Chemical Cleanout Campaign led by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). By the time the campaign ends on August 9, 2018, DEP will have removed more than 57,000 pounds of outdated, excess, and high-risk chemicals and 158 pounds of low-level radioactive materials from 180 schools statewide since the annual program began in 2011.

“We’re committed to helping schools protect their students, faculty, and staff by preventing problems with mishandled chemicals,” said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell. “Lab accidents can and do happen at schools. To help reduce risk, we train teachers and staff on the full spectrum of chemical use in teaching, from thoughtful purchasing to safe handling, storage, and disposal. We may provide further support by funding and coordinating a one-time chemical cleanout event.”

Schools must complete DEP chemical management training to be eligible to apply for the one-time cleanout. DEP provides the training to personnel in the fall, and the school completes a laboratory chemical inventory over the winter. DEP then coordinates a cleanout event at the school in the summer.

Eighty teachers and staff from 61 schools participated in DEP’s fall 2017 training. Earning continuing education credits, teachers learned procurement best practices; what to include in a chemical inventory; how to replace high-risk chemicals with lower-risk ones; correct spill response; and proper storage, use, and disposal.

The following schools were approved for the 2018 chemical cleanout:

  • Bucks County: Council Rock School District;
  • Huntingdon County: Mount Union School District and Southern Huntingdon County School District
  • Lackawanna County: Lakeland Junior/Senior High School;
  • Luzerne County: Crestwood School, Hazleton Area High School, and Northwest Area School District;
  • Mercer County: Mercer Area Middle School;
  • Montgomery County: Bala Cynwyd Middle School and Harriton High School;
  • Potter County: Coudersport Area Junior/Senior High School.

Cleanouts are carried out by approved contractors under DEP supervision, and hazardous and nonhazardous wastes are transported to appropriate permitted disposal facilities.

Teachers can return for chemical management continuing education even after their schools have had a cleanout under this popular program.

The DEP Schools Chemical Cleanout Campaign is provided to schools at no cost.

Training for the 2018-2019 campaign will begin in October. Teachers interested in participating should consult their Intermediate Unit Continuing Education courses. DEP offers the campaign as part of the Department of Education’s Safe Schools Initiative.

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 Photo: Containers from 55-gallon drums to 5-gallon buckets filled with small canisters of laboratory chemicals (segregated into groups such as oxidizers, acids, and flammables) ready to be transported to disposal facilities.
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Photo: Hazardous chemicals from a previous school cleanout.

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