Schools across Massachusetts store a variety of hazardous chemicals in science labs, vocational shops, art rooms, maintenance areas, basements, and boiler rooms. Many of these chemicals are not necessary for instruction or school maintenance, and because they are toxic, flammable, unstable or even explosive, they can expose students and staff to unnecessary risk.
The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) has developed a program to help schools address this problem. School Chemical Management Grants are available through the agency's Municipal Waste Reduction Grant Program , an annual competitive award process. MassDEP issues applications around mid summer and announces grants in late fall.
The Commonwealth's Beyond 2000 Solid Waste Master Plan calls for reducing the volume and toxicity of our waste stream. To this end, the MassDEP Public School Chemical Management Grant Program is aimed at:
- Helping school officials recognize school chemical hazards and commit to take responsibility for improving school chemical management practices.
- Substantially reducing the quantity and hazard level of chemicals stored in schools to the minimum necessary for quality instruction and maintenance of the physical plant.
- Establishing a system that ensures no further purchasing of chemicals determined to pose unnecessary risks to students and school staff, and purchasing smaller quantities of necessary chemicals.
- Establishing a safe management system for remaining required chemicals.
Each participating school forms an environmental health and safety (EHS) team. Required members include one person from each of the following groups:
- Principal, assistant principal, business official, or designee
- Science department head or science teacher
- Art department head or teacher, director of vocational education, or teacher
- Facilities manager or head custodian
- Local fire chief, fire prevention officer, health agent, or designee
Optional members might include a school nurse, local board of health official, local conservation commission official. Exceptions or substitutions may be made on a case-by-case basis.
A MassDEP technical assistance provider assigned to each school works with the EHS team throughout the state fiscal year for which the grant is awarded.
MassDEP conducts half-day interactive training sessions in two locations across the state. At least three members of the EHS team are required to attend this training as a condition of the grant. The training covers:
- Scope of the chemical management problem
- Regulations governing chemical management in schools and best management practices
- Working with other municipal departments to achieve compliance
- Planning your chemical management program
Participants also receive copies of the Massachusetts School Chemical Management Program Manual file size 2MB file size 2MB
Using MassDEP's School Chemical Management guidance document, schools assess their current chemical management status, including:
- Inventory chemicals in school
- Assess condition of chemical storage facilities
- Assess system for purchasing, tracking, and disposing of chemicals
- Develop purchasing policy that minimizes hazardous chemicals
School Chemical Assessment
The EHS team next schedules its chemical assessment and safety pre-screen with the hazardous waste contractor. This assessment may take 3 to 5 hours, depending on the size of the school. MassDEP recommends that it take place after school hours, in case "shock sensitive" chemicals are found. The chemical assessment is intended to:
- Identify the location, quantities, types, and conditions of chemicals stored in school building
- Immediately remove all imminent hazards
- Make recommendations for disposal
- Estimate the costs of clean-out
Program Planning & Implementation
Based on information and insights gathered in training and school assessments, the EHS team develops a chemical management program that best meets the schools needs. Goals and milestones are developed collaboratively by the EHS team and the MassDEP technical assistance provider, who is available to meet with the team several times through the end of the school year.
Contractors schedule clean-outs with EHS teams either after school hours, during vacations, or after school has ended for the season. Prior to contractors entering schools, EHS teams will have identified all chemical storage locations and chemicals to be retained by applying stickers to containers, or other obvious means. Contractors are instructed to pack and dispose only those items identified. At least one member of a school's EHS team should always be present when a clean-out is underway.
MassDEP reimburses participating schools up to $5,000 for clean-out services provided by hazardous waste contractors. Payments are made after the agency is provided invoices for contractor services.
For Additional Information
Email Tina Klein or call her at 617-292-5704.