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Enivronmental Initiatives Announced
(Released: 12/11/01)

By Karen Grava, Office of University Communications

STORRS, Conn. -- The University of Connecticut President Philip E. Austin and Chancellor John Petersen today announced several new initiatives designed to strengthen the University's environmental performance.

The initiatives, under development since early fall, include hiring an environmental manager and participating in a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Region 1 program that encourages New England colleges and universities to conduct environmental audits and develop comprehensive environmental management systems.

The University also said that 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 review 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 it is granted an extension by the EPA.

Austin said the University would begin the search immediately for the environmental manager, who will report directly to the chancellor. The manager, whose exact title has not yet been determined, 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 innovative strategies to improve the University's performance in key areas such as water, sewer, 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 initiatives began in late 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 announced today 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."

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

"Our actions today demonstrate the University's commitment to conserve natural resources, protect the natural environment and ensure that the University's continued growth, development and transformation occur in a manner consistent with our environmental commitment," said Petersen.

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 and to develop effective relationships with state, local, regional and federal officials on a range of environmental issues. In addition, the manager will be asked to work with individuals and public interest groups in order to identify, address and resolve environmental issues.

"While the University, in the recent past, has had a track record of meeting environmental standards and remediating historic problems such as the landfill, it is clear that we must aggressively establish a foundation for a comprehensive performance-based environmental management system," Petersen said.

The manager is expected to be on staff no later that this spring.

December 2001 Releases
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