Technical Contact: Katie Koelfgen, 651-297-8506
Media Contact: Walker Smith, 651-297-7018
St. Paul, Minn. -- The University of Minnesota has agreed to pay an $18,000 civil penalty to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) for alleged hazardous waste violations at campus locations in Minneapolis and St. Paul.
Some of the alleged violations include failure to evaluate waste, improper management of hazardous waste and disposing of demolition debris potentially contaminated with mercury.
In 2004, the University of Minnesota began renovating the former Health Services Building at 1518 Cleveland Ave. N. in St. Paul and at Jones Hall, a former physics building, located at 27 Pleasant St. S.E. in Minneapolis. Prior to renovation, the university inspected each site to identify and remove hazardous materials, but no mercury sampling was conducted.
At the Health Services Building, mercury was discovered in several areas after demolition debris from renovations had been removed and sent to transfer stations and an unlined demolition landfill. Since the debris was not tested, it is unclear how much of it may have been contaminated with mercury.
During the Jones Hall renovation, the university allowed a recycler to remove approximately 4,000 square feet of hardwood flooring for reuse. After discovering mercury under remaining flooring, the university recovered and tested approximately 3,900 square feet of it. The purchasers of the other 100 square feet could not be identified.
The University of Minnesota has informed those who received material that may have contained mercury that they would be willing to replace it. They have also completed cleanup at the Health Sciences Building and addressed mercury concerns at Jones Hall.
When calculating penalties, MPCA staff take into account how seriously the violation affected the environment, whether it is a first time or repeat violation, and how promptly the violation was reported to appropriate authorities. Staff also attempts to recover the calculated economic benefit gained by failure to comply with environmental laws in a timely manner. A comprehensive list of enforcement actions by the MPCA is available on the agency's Web site at/newscenter/enforcement.html.