Environmental Health & Safety

Frequently Asked Questions About Hazardous Materials at Fort Lewis College

Emergency Situation?

If you need emergency help for personal injury or a chemical spill which threatens personal safety, call 911 or 9-911 from a campus phone.  Your call will notify FLC Police Department and Durango Fire Protection District.  Emergency medical personnel and/or HazMat personnel will respond as appropriate.

What should I do with spilled chemicals?

If someone is injured or could be injured call 911 or 9-911 from a campus phone.

If it is 1 or more gallons of flammable liquids or you feel the situation is dangerous, call 911 or 9-911 from a campus phone.

If the chemical might be harmful and no one is in danger, and you are trained in how to safely clean up the chemical, you can proceed and clean up the chemical.  Put the chemical and all used clean up supplies in a trash bag or bucket and call the Environmental Health & Safety (EH&S) office at 7272 for pickup and disposal.

EH&S can provide your workplace or lab with a Spill Cleanup Kit containing cleanup supplies for spills and up to 2 gallons of liquid.  The kit contains gloves, adsorbents, disposal bags and instructions.

How can the EH&S office assist me with chemical safety?

EH&S can assist FLC  employees and students with the safe use of chemical materials, advising on which materials to use and avoid, helping design safe practices, providing containers and labels, and removing unwanted materials from the workplace and labs.  

Where do I find a Safety Data Sheet (SDS) for a material?

Most SDSs can be found on line by doing a search of the common name, manufacturer, product number or chemical name.  SDSs are being updated and stored on a routine basis, and may be found on the internal SDS website.

How do I know whether or not a chemical is hazardous to use?

First, review the SDS or another reference source.  Some references are kept in the EH&S office in EBH 227.  It is necessary to understand the hazards posed by the chemical material without thorough understanding of the material to avoid either underestimating or unnecessarily exaggerating the danger.

The major categories of hazardous materials include flammables, explosives, poisons, corrosive acids or bases, carcinogens, mutagens, teratogens and heavy metal materials.  Materials not used on campus include radioactive materials, explosives, and acute poisons such as biotoxins and chemical warfare agents.

Fort Lewis College attempts to minimize the dangers of exposing people; buildings, and the environment to hazardous materials.  Due to ongoing efforts of College faculty and staff, the level of hazards materials has been substantially reduced in recent years. 

What wastes are hazardous?

The following materials meet the definition of hazardous wastes in Colorado:

  • Any unidentified material that seems out of place or unusual in appearance.
  • Any material that lists the contents as being dangerous or hazardous.
  • Any material with a label indicating it not be disposed of in the trash
  • Any material listed as being an explosive or reactive.
  • Any material listed as a carcinogen, mutagen or teratogen.
  • Any material regulated by the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).
  • Pesticides of any sort.  
  • Any material (solid or liquid) containing cyanide, sulfide or fluoride.
  • Any materials containing the following metals:  lead, chromium, mercury, barium, silver, cadmium, arsenic or selenium.
  • Any material emitting a gas – such as bubbling, demonstrating rapid evaporation or has a strong odor.
  • Materials that are highly acidic or basic – any material with a pH <5 or >9.
  • Flammable liquids, such as mineral spirits, lacquer thinner, acetone, xylene, toluene, fuels, oil-based paints and organic solvents.  If it smells similar to gasoline or an oil or solvent-based paint you should treat it as a hazardous waste.

What chemicals can I pour down the drain or throw into the dumpster?

The term “hazardous waste” is defined by the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment (CDPH&E).  Hazardous materials defined when no longer used, discarded or outdated as hazardous wastes are regulated by the CDPH&E.  The CDPH&E publishes comprehensive lists of hazardous waste definitions and approved handling and disposal methods. 

It is illegal to discard any hazardous waste generated on campus by placing into a dumpster or pouring down a sink drain.   Only non-hazardous wastes can be disposed of on campus, including soaps, common household cleaners, food products and the like.  No liquids may be disposed of in a dumpster.  If you have a question regarding whether a material is hazardous waste, and how to disposed of safely, contact the EH&S office at extension 7272.

Does Fort Lewis College dispose of its hazardous wastes safely?

Yes.  Each employee has the legal responsibility to dispose of their hazardous waste in accordance with federal and state law.  EH&S coordinates the annual hazardous waste cleanout centered on the materials stored in the Chemical Storage Building.  A licensed hazardous waste hauling company is contracted to remove the waste from the College and dispose of it in accordance with federal and state laws.

What is the process for recycling dead batteries?

Not all batteries can be recycled on campus, such as alkaline batteries.  Batteries that can be recycled include nickel-cadmium (NiCad), nickel metal hydride and lithium ion batteries that are owned by the College.  These batteries can be deposited in the recycling container located in the Physical Plant Storage yard.

Dead lead-acid batteries can be recycled in the Auto Shop located in the Physical Plant.  Contact the Physical Plant Service Center for details (7000).

Personal batteries cannot be recycled at this time, but may be recycled at various businesses in town.

Can hazardous waste belonging to students, College employees or the general public be disposed of on campus?

No.  This waste is not the responsibility of the college and it is up to the individual to dispose of in a proper manner.