Campus averts chemistry crisis

Nicholas Santiago

Andrew Fergin, Editor-in-Chief

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.

Email This Story

A situation that could have led to a shut down of Mesa College’s chemistry labs has been resolved.  The issue began when the SDCCD Facilities Department informed Mesa College that it would no longer be transporting waste produced by the campus.

In an interview prior to the resolution, Professor Robert Fremland explained that approximately five months ago, the SDCCD Facilities Department informed Mesa College that it would no longer transport waste containers produced by the campus’ Chemistry Department to the on-site temporary storage facility for hazardous materials.  Once the waste was in the facility it would then be picked up by a company called Clean Harbors that disposed of the waste.

Had no solution been reached, the amount of unmoved chemical waste in the labs would have accumulated until eventually breaching limits placed by the San Diego County Health Department.

“If it gets to a point that we are accumulating more waste than we are supposed to accumulate in that lab, it’s in violation of health laws and no they will not be able to continue,” said Fremland.

Before the notification, the Facilities Department handled the moving of waste for a number of departments at Mesa College. This included, but wasn’t limited to, the theatre, biology and chemistry departments.  The decision would have impacted the Chemistry Department the hardest, due to the volume of waste produced and the rate of waste production caused by the large number of labs performed.

Clarifying some of the reasons for the decision of the Facilities Department, Vice President of Instruction Tim McGrath said, “The budget cut has hit a number of different areas and one of the areas is facilities.  The facilities used to have more employs than they do now.”

McGrath went on to explain, “And so the facilities people have tried to, one, reduce some of their responsibilities and the other one is to transport chemical waste you have to be trained.”

On Oct. 14 a meeting was held to come up with an alternative to the previous system.  Of the proposed solutions, the final decision was to negotiate with Clean Harbors to have the company come on campus to pickup waste containers from multiple locations instead of exclusively from the hazardous waste storage facility.

“I’m sure there will be a cost with it.  But there would have been a cost to hire more lab technicians; there would have been a cost hire more facilities (staff).  And so what we’ll have to do is to weigh out all those costs and what’s the best deal to save as much money as we can,” noted McGrath.