Environmental Health & Safety
Environmental Compliance Unit
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I pour my chemical waste(s) down the drain?
Drain disposal of chemicals at the University is regulated by the Monroe County Pure Waters Sewer Use Law, and is strictly forbidden unless specific written permission has been granted by the Monroe County Pure Waters Districts. Each and every laboratory that wishes to drain dispose chemicals must request written permission - through the University's Environmental Compliance Unit - from the Monroe County Pure Wastes District. If approved, the approval letter must be kept on file in that laboratory. Just because one laboratory has been granted permission to drain certain chemicals does not mean that any other laboratory is also granted permission to do the same.
Does my chemical waste need to be labeled?
Federal and New York State regulations require that the generator (person) label each waste container with the words "Hazardous Waste" and a description of the contents of the container. Therefore, you are legally responsible for identifying and labeling the chemical and waste containers in your work area, and maintaining those labels in good, readable condition. The label must accurately describe the contents of the container. Improperly labeled waste containers are dangerous and are a serious violation of Federal and New York State laws.
An excellent reference is the book Prudent Practices in the Laboratory: Handling and Disposal of Chemicals, copyright 1995 by the National Academy of Sciences. Chapter 4, sections 4.D.3, 4.D.4, 4.D.5 covers the labeling of commercially packaged chemicals, other chemical containers, and experimental materials. Adequate and proper labeling of ALL chemical containers is essential for safety. A container may contain material that is not currently considered waste - but, it could be considered to be waste at some point in the future. An unlabeled container whose contents are known only to one person is a dangerous hazard to all other people.
What if I don't know what is in the waste I'm disposing?
Please contact us for help to safely dispose of your waste. Staff members from the Environmental Compliance/Hazardous Waste Management Unit can be of assistance in helping you identify many unknowns. Truly "unknown" materials that cannot be identified are often quite expensive to dispose of.
Where do I get hazardous waste tags?
The University is no longer using the blue Hazardous Waste tag system. In order to have waste items picked up for disposal, you must first generate a waste card for each item using the University's new online system - Chematix. When you have successfully generated and printed out a waste card for each item and attached it to the waste container, use the Chematix system to generate a pickup worksheet and submit it to the Environmental Compliance Unit. Once a pickup request has been received, a technician will include your request on the schedule and come to your lab and remove waste items. For information on the Chematix system, please refer to our web site - http://www.safety.rochester.edu/labsafety/chematix/chematix_intro.html.
How much does it cost me to dispose of waste?
Individual labs or departments are not typically billed directly for this service. In some unusual cases, the disposal of wastes may be charged directly to a project or special cost center. Such cases may include construction/renovation or other project in which waste disposal costs were included in project-specific funding.
Do you take radioactive or medical wastes?
The Environmental Compliance/Hazardous Waste Management Unit does not accept radioactive or medical waste.
Radioactive wastes are managed through the Radiation Safety Unit and can be contacted at 275-3781.
For a medical waste pickup at the Medical Center, please contact Environmental Services (Housekeeping). If you are located on River Campus, or off-site, you are required to maintain a contract with Stericycle to dispose of your medical waste. Please contact your department administrator/safety officer for more information about medical waste disposal from your location.
What happens to my waste after you pick it up?
Hazardous waste items are packaged and transported by the Environmental Compliance/Hazardous Waste Management Unit to the University's hazardous waste storage facility located on the River Campus. At the facility, wastes are classified, segregated, and stored in accordance with local, state and federal laws. All Hazardous Waste entering the facility must be disposed of onsite or shipped to a hazardous waste treatment, storage, and disposal facility within 90 days. Disposal decisions are made using the following hierarchy of choices (in order of preference): reducing waste generation at the source, beneficial reuse, recycle, incinerate, treat, and, lastly, landfill. All disposal decisions are made in accordance with local, state, and federal laws.
What can I do to minimize the generation of hazardous wastes in my area?
Waste minimization at the source of generation is the preferred strategy for managing hazardous wastes. Individuals can help achieve waste minimization by recycling and changing work practices to become less wasteful. For starters, ask yourself the following questions:
- Am I buying wisely? (Remember that disposal costs are sometimes more than the original purchase price for many chemicals. Bulk purchases of chemicals offer no deal if the excess stock is given up for disposal of unused chemicals.)
- Am I rotating my stock to avoid outdated chemicals?
- Am I properly storing my chemicals to prevent aging or, worse yet, spills and fires?
- Do people in my lab know what to do in the event of a spill to minimize personal danger and the volume of waste material generated as a result of such spills?
- Am I planning the experiments with waste minimization in mind?
- Can I substitute non- or less-hazardous materials during any step of an experiment?
- Do people in my lab know what is and what isn't a "hazardous chemical?"
- Does the protocol in my lab include proper waste segregation and containerization so that disposal options can remain clearer and more cost effective?
- Are the facts on my waste card true and complete?
- Do I prevent "unknowns" by keeping containers labeled?
- Do I ever look internally for a needed chemical before buying a fresh bottle?
- Have I explored possible new procedures and/or equipment modifications aimed at reducing waste generation?
- Do I have other ideas? Have I shared them?
What should I do if I have a spill?
Spills can be classified as either a minor cleanup procedure or a major spill. Minor cleanup procedures do not expose laboratory employees to any additional chemical exposures and should be cleaned up immediately by the laboratory staff wearing the appropriate personal protective equipment. Many hazardous substances necessitate special cleanup procedures to minimize hazards to cleanup personnel. Major spill cleanup should not be attempted by laboratory personnel. Contact Public Safety (x13) to arrange for the University's Spill Response Team.
QUESTIONS? Contact the Environmental Compliance Unit at (585) 275-2056 or EH&S at (585) 275-3241 or e-mail EH&S Questions.
This page last updated 2/25/2022. Disclaimer.