Extra! Extra! Inspectors Are Coming to a Waste Container Near You
by Rebecca Lonergan

Is your lab compliant and ready for inspection? Columbia University, like many hospitals and universities, is subject to announced and unannounced NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) inspections. All waste collection areas should be maintained in “inspection ready” condition at all times.  How do you know if you’re in compliance? All you need to remember are the 5 Ls of hazardous waste management! The 5 Ls are a tool to ensure environmental compliance for the proper storage and management of hazardous waste. The L’s include: CoLLect, Label, Lid, Locate and Leaks.


  • CoLLect all of your hazardous chemical wastes and submit an online chemical pick-up request form to arrange for proper disposal. Please consult EH&S if you are unsure if your chemical waste is a hazardous waste.
  • Evaluate your chemical inventory regularly and coLLect chemicals for disposal that are unwanted, expired or have no intended use.
  • DO NOT dispose of hazardous waste by neutralization, treatment, evaporation, or dilution.


  • Affix a Hazardous Waste Label to the container as soon as the first drop of material is collected.
  • List all of the components and their percentages on the Label.
  • DO NOT use chemical formulae, abbreviations, symbols or generic names (ex: “solvents”, “halogenated chemicals”, etc.) on Labels.


  • Keep Hazardous Waste containers closed at all times, except when adding or removing waste.
  • Use a closeable Lid that will prevent the hazardous waste from spilling should the container be knocked over.
  • Ensure process waste containers, such as those to collect  HPLC solvents, are set up with a tight fitting cap - no foil or parafilm.
  • DO NOT leave a funnel in a Hazardous Waste container.


  • Locate hazardous waste containers at or near the point of the Hazardous Waste’s generation (a.k.a. the Satellite Accumulation Areas).
  • DO NOT locate or move hazardous waste containers outside of the room in which the waste was generated.


  • Inspect Satellite Accumulation Areas weekly for Leaks.
  • DO NOT allow Leaking containers to remain in Satellite Accumulation Areas. Contact EH&S upon discovering any leak or potential release of material.

Don’t forget: Unauthorized drain disposal of chemicals is strictly forbidden.  Improper management of Hazardous Waste is not only a violation of regulations and punishable by a fine, it also poses a significant threat to human health and the environment.  To ensure compliance and address any questions or concerns regarding hazardous waste management, EH&S regularly visits laboratory hazardous waste Satellite Accumulation Areas (SAAs) throughout the University.

To dispose of hazardous waste and unwanted chemicals, or to request waste containers, caps or labels, please submit a “Chemical/Hazardous Waste Pick up Request” at: http://vesta.cumc.columbia.edu/ehs/wastepickup/.  Need a copy of the 5Ls to post in your laboratory? Visit http://www.ehs.columbia.edu/5L.html to print a copy.

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