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  January 28, 2002

University Announces Environmental Initiatives
Karen A. Grava

President Philip E. Austin and Chancellor John D. Petersen have announced several new initiatives designed to strengthen the University's environmental performance.

The initiatives, under development since the fall, include hiring an environmental manager, who will come on board this spring, and participating in a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Region 1 program that encourages New England colleges and universities to conduct environmental audits and develop comprehensive environmental management systems.

The environmental manager will be asked to develop two important proposals requiring broad public consultation and participation:

  • how the University and the Town of Mansfield could work together to extend the University's water system to residential neighborhoods northwest of the main campus;

  • and whether or not the University's less-than-90-day hazardous waste transfer facility should be moved from its current location east of Route 195 to a location near the sewage treatment facility north of North Eagleville Road, a move that would require broad public and neighborhood consensus.

The EPA audit will include independent environmental auditors, who will systematically review UConn operations at all campuses, including the Health Center, for compliance with key U.S. EPA programs. These programs include the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, the Spill Prevention, Control and Containment Act, and the Community Right to Know Act.

Participation in the environmental audit program requires the University to disclose to the EPA areas of non-compliance and to bring those areas into compliance within 60 days of notification, unless granted an extension by the EPA.

The manager, who will report to the chancellor, also will assist the University to partner with the Town of Mansfield, state regulators and area residents on a host of issues related to the conservation and protection of the campus and its natural resources. The University owns more than 3,500 acres in the Mansfield area.

The manager will ensure that the University's continued growth and development occurs concurrently with the conservation and protection of the natural environment in which the University is located. To that end, the manager will develop and implement strategies to improve the University's performance in key areas such as water, sewage, energy, environmental health and safety, farm, transportation, construction and development operations.

"As we continue our progress - planning for additional students, the completion of UConn 2000 and post-UConn 2000 growth - we have an opportunity to manage the University's growth and improvement while protecting the natural environment in which it exists," Austin said. "No major University in the country is progressing as far or as fast as is the University of Connecticut."

UConn is six years into its $1 billion UConn 2000 program to renew, enhance and rebuild its campuses and to date has completed more than $500 million in construction on the Storrs campus.

Development of the environmental initiatives began in the fall, when the University began informal discussions with town government officials, including Mayor Betsy Paterson, state environmental officials, and state legislators, including State Rep. Denise Merrill and co-chairs of the Environment Committee State Rep. Jessie Stratton and State Sen. Don Williams. They encouraged UConn to create a stronger institutional structure that would allow the University to continue its infrastructure improvements, while addressing environmental issues proactively and expeditiously and generating close cooperation with the surrounding community, Austin said.

"I applaud the University for its efforts and its responsiveness," Paterson said. "The actions demonstrate a willingness by UConn officials to listen to the town and our citizens and to respond to our concerns. We look forward to working with the University on these and other initiatives that will serve the needs of both UConn and the Town of Mansfield."

The Chancellor said the environmental manager will be charged with developing a natural and cultural resource protection and conservation policy.

He said the manager will also be asked to work with the town to address the long-term need for new sources of water supply to meet the future needs of the town and the University.

George Hoag, professor and director of the Environmental Research Institute, said he is pleased with the University's decision to hire an environmental manager, especially because the manager will have to deal with issues that cut across departmental lines.

"An environmental manager is pivotal to the University's capability to effectively internally coordinate the human and physical resources necessary to appropriately and responsively lead its environmental matters," he said. "This person will have his or her finger on the pulse of all university environmental affairs, which will enable a more coordinated communication with local and state environmental groups, as well as state and federal environmental regulatory agencies.

"The creation of high-level environmental positions in other large organizations has been pivotal for large companies and governmental agencies to effectively manage their environmental affairs," Hoag added. "The university is not creating a new management model, it is simply adopting a model that has been very successfully implemented in industry, government and in a few other universities."