Environmental Liability for Higher Education

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A Smarter Approach to a Complex Challenge

Higher education institutions face ongoing financial pressures as well as significant, complex business challenges and risks. Making capital improvements, adding research and development capabilities, and building out student amenities are significant expenses that become even costlier when contaminated materials, for instance, are unexpectedly identified during construction.

In an age of viral internet memes and media saturation, coverage risks in higher education come with even more potential for damage and costs. Increased environmental regulations, heightened public scrutiny, and broad advancement in research and medical technology, along with more notable exposures such as PCB in construction material and laboratory waste streams that include medical, biological, and infectious waste, present possible problems for both bottom-line and reputation.

Even basic day-to-day facility operations and maintenance can pose significant risks. Indoor air quality, mold, and legionella from pools, ice rinks, atriums, dormitories, and classrooms. Noxious fumes created through the inadvertent mixing of chemical cleaning agents. Any of these issues and activities could present a significant risk, from bodily injury claims and legal expenses to costly remediation activities.

Risk considerations for colleges and universities performing environmental due diligence should include:

  • Historical operational risks
  • Campus Redevelopment
  • Air emissions from ventilation systems
  • Inadvertent or inadequate treatment of carcinogenic, pathogenic, and infectious wastewater discharge into municipal waste streams
  • Handling of low-level nuclear equipment and waste
  • Ammonia leaks from refrigeration compressors (rinks, food refrigeration units, and labs)
  • PCB in caulking and construction materials
  • Generators and under/aboveground storage tanks

Practice Leadership

Joe Quarantello

National Environmental Practice Leader

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