Metro State hired its first environmental protection specialist—Mark Pokorny—in January, making him the point person for chemical waste management and lab safety.
“The proper handling and disposal of hazardous materials and wastes is an essential function to help ensure the safety of all Metro State students, faculty and staff, as well as our environment,” says Pokorny, who encourages students and staff to email him with questions and concerns. “I absolutely love working for and with Metro State faculty, staff and students.”
Sean Nesbitt, director of facilities planning and space management, says Joan Foster, dean of the School of Letters, Arts and Sciences, worked closely with the Division of Administration, Finance and Facilities to create a position that properly addresses lab safety.
“This position was created for various reasons, but the most important was that Metro State is such a large college and has so many labs that produce some sort of waste that we needed someone who would oversee all of our lab safety, lab training, waste management, inventories and to help change Metro’s status from a Conditionally Exempt Small Quantity Generator (CESQG) to a Small Quantity Generator (SQG),” Nesbitt says. These designations are managed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
The change of generator status alters how Metro State’s hazardous wastes are managed and will allow the institution to produce and accumulate more hazardous waste. As a SQG, Metro State must also adhere to more EPA requirements, including having an on-site waste accumulation time limit (as a CESQG Metro State could store hazardous waste on-site indefinitely), basic storage requirements, mandatory training and emergency procedures.
"With the school generating significant amounts of hazardous wastes, the mandatory training aspect of becoming a SQG is really a blessing,” Pokorny says.
Pokorny worked for a private environmental remediation company that specialized in the cleanup of soils contaminated with heavy metals prior to coming to Metro State. He offers Metro State students, faculty and staff on-site consultations and training on the proper storage and removal of chemicals and chemical waste, especially in the chemistry, biology, art and technology departments. He also teaches them the inventory processes for the campus’s chemical stockroom.Pokorny’s job duties are wide-ranging and include many responsibilities formerly performed by the AHEC Environmental Safety Department, which he continues to work closely with. He is responsible for coordinating, scheduling and overseeing the procurement, disposal and transport of Metro State’s hazardous materials in accordance with federal, state and local regulations. This includes everything from classifying, treating and packaging materials and wastes to maintaining database and paperwork tracking to demonstrate compliance.
“Through Mark’s knowledge, we’re looking at an approach to lab safety that we can implement throughout the college for all departments,” Nesbitt says.
Pokorny is also responsible for inspections, indoor air-quality assessments, evaluating potential environmental impacts and ensuring compliance with environmental regulations for the building of new facilities or the remodeling or demolition of existing ones. He is also responsible for spill remediation and containment, specialized HAZMAT support to emergency responders and maintenance of Metro State’s emergency response equipment.
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