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Monday, October 14, 2019

Get Hazardous waste out of RI schools

DEM Program Helps Remove Unwanted Chemicals from Schools Across Rhode Island

science experiment chemical reaction GIFSo far this year, the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) has assisted 11 Rhode Island schools with the removal and disposal of more than 100 banned or unwanted laboratory chemicals through the School Hazardous Waste Laboratory Chemical Removal project. 

The effort, implemented in partnership with the Rhode Island Department of Education, is aimed at reducing human health and environmental impacts from hazardous substances in schools. DEM is currently seeking additional schools to take part in the program, at no cost to participating schools.

"DEM is committed to protecting and restoring our environment to create greener, healthier communities, and we look forward to helping more Rhode Island schools remove unwanted laboratory chemicals through this important initiative," said DEM Director Janet Coit. 

"Chemicals and toxic substances can pose a serious threat to the safety and welfare of students and school staff, and that's why it's so important to take proactive measures to head off incidents before they become emergencies. We encourage Rhode Island school districts to take advantage of this unique opportunity to keep dangerous chemicals out of the school environment."

Chemical mismanagement in chemical storage areas and cleaning chemicals used throughout school buildings can pose a hazard to students and school personnel. 

Under this program, DEM works with schools to conduct chemical audits and remove hazardous laboratory substances to make the school environment safe. Funding for the project is being provided from Volkswagen settlement funds and a US Environmental Protection Agency Pollution Prevention grant.

Last March DEM sent letters to all Rhode Island public school systems to make them aware of the program. 

Of the 17 schools that completed an online questionnaire about school chemical storage and use, 11 schools required chemical removals. 

They included Mount Hope High School, Bristol; Central Falls High School, Central Falls; Lincoln High School, Lincoln; Middletown High School, Middletown; Rogers High School, Newport; 360 High School and School One, Providence; Curtis Corner Middle School and South Kingstown High School, South Kingstown; Tiverton High School, Tiverton, and Exeter-West Greenwich High School, West Greenwich. 

In total, more than 100 different chemicals including 300 pounds of oily debris, 61 pounds of hazardous waste, and 100 gallons of flammable liquids were removed from the schools and properly disposed of by a licensed contractor.

A designated representative from schools interested in the program is asked to complete the Chemical Use in Schools Survey 2019 by November 18 and email it to or by November 18. 

The survey is available as a fillable document on DEM's website at

Completed surveys may also be mailed to Anne Battersby in DEM's Office of Customer and Technical Assistance, 235 Promenade Street, Providence, RI 02908. DEM will follow up with schools by phone or email after receiving the surveys.

For questions about the survey or the School Hazardous Waste Laboratory Chemical Removal program, call Ann Battersby in DEM's Office of Customer and Technical Assistance at 222-4700 ext. 7284 or Jim Ball, Chief of DEM's Office of Emergency Response at 222-4700 ext. 7129.