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Governor's Leadership Award


Community College of Rhode Island
Application for
2001 Governor's Environmental
Leadership Award
August 30, 2001

Nominee Information

Emanuel G. Terezakis, Ph.D., Chemical Safety Coordinator
Community College of Rhode Island
1762 Louisquisset Pike
Lincoln, RI 02965

Project Information

Project title: CCRI Environmental Projects
Start Date: Some Components Begun in 1971
Completion Date: Ongoing


CCRI Flanagan Campus in Lincoln, RI
CCRI Liston Campus in Providence, RI
CCRI Knight Campus in Warwick, RI

Programs and Projects

  1. Environmental Health and Safety Programs:
    1. CCRI has numerous interrelated EHS (environmental health and safety) programs and plans in place that address federal and state compliance issues and in many cases go far beyond compliance. All CCRI's EHS programs have the full support of the college administration, which recognizes the importance of safeguarding employee and student safety and protecting the integrity of our environment. They are implemented by the Dean of Administration and the chemical safety coordinator in cooperation with the Department of Security and Safety and Campus Police, the physical plant directors and the academic department chairs. All the programs, especially the ones described in this award application, are directly applicable to all other academic and commercial institutions in Rhode Island and the rest of the United States. They are freely available for reading or downloading and use from CCRI's homepage or directly from CCRI's environmental health and safety webpage. Titles of programs relating to pollution prevention are: Chemical Hygiene Plan, Hazardous Waste Management Program, Hazardous Substance Release Emergency Response Plan, Used Oil Management Plan, Radon Testing Schedule, Environmental /Safety Committee Minutes, Knight Campus Geothermal Project, Hazardous Waste Disposal Program, Regulated Medical Waste Disposal, Respiratory Protection Program, Indoor Air Quality Program, and the Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure Plan. The programs most directly involved in pollution prevention and environmental leadership are described in the remainder of this document.
  2. Environmental Health and Safety Committee:
    1. CCRI has an active Environmental Health and Safety committee composed of representatives from all areas of the college, including the student body. Meetings are chaired regularly by the Dean of Administration to discuss issues of interest or concern. Agenda topics may be introduced by any member of the college community in person or through a committee member. Problems discussed and resolved in the past two years include noise and other problems due to building construction, radon testing, enhanced recycling of cans and bottles, air tests and indoor air quality, chemical inventory reduction, oil spill prevention, energy use reduction, biomedical waste disposal and latex product safety. Committee meeting minutes are posted on the Environmental Health and Safety Webpage.
  3. Indoor Air Quality:
    1. CCRI strives to maintain a healthy indoor environment at all times. CCRI's many-fold approach to good indoor air quality includes the Environmental Health and Safety Committee, a cross-section of the college community that meets regularly to discuss all safety and environmental issues. The HVAC (heating, ventilating and air conditioning) systems at each campus are maintained according to the highest technical standards and are serviced under preventative maintenance programs. The systems are controlled by energy-saving computers that anticipate heating and cooling loads for maximum occupant comfort. Common pollution sources are virtually nonexistent at CCRI since most heating is done with electricity, rather than fossil fuels. The release of pollutants into the indoor air is strictly prohibited and monitored. Most indoor painting is with water rather than oil-based paints. Welding and spray painting are done in air-capturing enclosures to protect workers and keep pollutants out of the building air. Laboratory experiments that produce toxic vapors are scaled down and done only in fume hoods. Cooking at the Flanagan and Knight Campuses is by electricity rather than gas, which produces toxic nitrogen oxides. (Gas-burning stoves in the Liston Campus kitchen are vented.) Carpeting is installed only with low VOC (volatile organic compound) cements to minimize air pollution. Small engine repairs that emit gasoline vapor or carbon monoxide are never done indoors. Almost all elemental mercury in barometers and manometers has been eliminated and all mercury thermometers have been replaced by alcohol or digital ones. The college repeatedly tests for suspected air pollutants such as nitrogen oxides, ozone, mercury, hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, formaldehyde and phenol. Most of these have never been detected in the indoor air. All systems are operated with the highest air exchange rates consistent with proper temperature and humidity to insure the lowest indoor pollutant levels.
  4. Environmental Excellence Award:
    1. In June, 2001, the Community College of Rhode Island received an Environmental Excellence Award from the Narragansett Bay Commission for its success in reducing water pollution at the Lincoln and Providence campuses. An excerpt of an article in the June 24, 2001 Providence Journal may be read on the EHS WebPages. The article describes how CCRI prevents virtually all pollutants generated in its science laboratories, photographic darkrooms and food service kitchens from reaching the Narragansett Bay Commission sewage treatment facilities. The efforts that resulted in the NBC award are ongoing and in keeping with all of CCRI's other pollution prevention programs.
  5. Energy Use Reduction:
    1. From the time the Knight Campus was opened in 1971, CCRI has been in the forefront of energy conservation. Energy conservation measures have been implemented at all campuses, but the savings are most apparent at the Knight Campus, the largest and oldest of CCRI’s three facilities. There are two main components to CCRI's energy use reduction program. The first, discussed in this section, is accomplished by controlling electrical consumption with more efficient devices and better scheduling of electricity use. The second component, discussed in section 6, is CCRI's Geothermal Project, which uses the earth as a heat reservoir to reduce building heating and cooling costs. Over the years, CCRI received over one million dollars in grants from the federal and state governments, from the Narragansett Electric Company and other sources. These have funded programs to replace incandescent lights with fluorescent lights, to replace existing fluorescent fixtures with more efficient ones and to replace electric motors with more energy-efficient models. A new Honeywell Building Management System at the Knight Campus has greatly reduced energy use there. The Honeywell system uses more energy efficient motors, variable speed controls for the motors, automated digital temperature controls that respond more quickly to demand changes and improved programming of the computers that control the daily heating and cooling cycles. Calculations of real energy costs saved are difficult because the utilization of the Knight Campus has changed so dramatically since the facility opened. Weather conditions have fluctuated greatly, daytime class hours have increased, nighttime classes were introduced, weekend use of the building was encouraged and over 1000 personal computers were added to the electric load. Examination of electric use records from 1971 to 2000 shows a fluctuating but decreasing use of electricity in spite of seemingly increasing demand. Electrical consumption during the first year the Knight Campus was in operation was 10 million kilowatt-hours. In the year 2000, consumption was slightly above 7 million KWH, a reduction of three million KWH. At today's cost of nine cents per KWH, that became a one-year savings of $270,000. This is impressive in view of last year’s total Knight Campus electric bill of $700,000. In 2000, CCRI received an award from the Narragansett Electric Company for excellence in energy conservation resulting from its comprehensive efforts. Conservation continues today at all CCRI campuses. Ongoing energy-saving measures include purchasing only energy-efficient computers with monitors and CPU’s that go into rest mode after a predetermined period of inactivity and replacement of exit sign lights with high-efficiency LEDs. Energy use reduction at the electrically-heated Flanagan Campus, while impressive, are less than those at the Knight Campus because the Flanagan Campus was built later with many modern energy conserving features already built in. The same is true for the Liston Campus in Providence, heated by natural gas.
  6. Geothermal Project:
    1. The Knight Campus is the site of an ambitious project to extract heat from the earth by means of a series of deep wells and use the heat to help warm the main building in the winter. Similarly, heat extracted from the building in the summer will be used to heat the earth and reduce cooling costs. The Geothermal Project which is being installed by CAM HVAC and Construction, Inc. of Smithfield, RI was featured in the following article reprinted from the Warwick Beacon:
      1. By pumping underground water cooled and warmed by the earth, the Knight Campus of the Community College of Rhode Island plans to trim up to $70,000 a year off its heating and air conditioning bills.
      2. About two acres of ledge and brush have been cleared next to the school's baseball fields for the installation of a geothermal heating and cooling system at a cost of $950,000. One hundred interconnected wells, each 300 feet deep, are being drilled in the land. An underground pump will be used to pipe water at a constant 55 degrees into the CCRI building. The water will supplement the existing climate control system in the building by giving it a head start of sorts: the system will use less energy because the water is warmer than the air in winter and cooler than the air in summer.
      3. Half of the funding for construction of the system will come from Narragansett Electric's energy conservation program. The remainder will come from the college's budget over a period of five years. A U.S. Department of Energy grant funneled through the state Energy Office funded the design of the system, which is not included in the (new building addition) $950,000 construction estimate.
    2. Stephen Marginson, Dean of Administration at CCRI, said when the project is complete the field will be planted with grass to add to green space at the college. No part of the geothermal apparatus will be visible above ground.
    3. "The college doesn't have tennis courts, and this would be an ideal place to put them. We also don't have a lot of places with tables and chairs to sit outside in the summer and spring, and this could be that kind of venue," Marginson said.
    4. CCRI hopes the project will be complete in November or December, in time for the most costly part of the heating season. The expected savings of $60,000-$70,000 from reduced electricity use means the school will recoup its costs in seven or eight years. Annual electricity costs at the Knight Campus are about $700,000 with about $250,000 of that going to heating and cooling.
    5. "Were paying for it in five installments, so with the money we save, it's almost dollar for dollar," Marginson said.
    6. CCRI began planning for conversion to geothermal climate control several years ago when the State Energy Office approached the college with a proposal to use federal funds to design a system for its particular needs. CCRI had the necessary land and an existing heating and cooling system that would easily adapt to a geothermal supplement.
  7. Sewer Discharge Permits:
    1.  Sewage discharge permits were issued by the Narragansett Bay Commission (NBC) to CCRI's Flanagan Campus on February 17, 1998 and to the Liston Campus on August 25, 2000. The Warwick Sewer Authority (WSA) issued a permit to the Knight Campus on April 24, 1997. Information on these permits, on discharge limits and on CCRI's compliance efforts may be seen on CCRI's EHS WebPages. In the past, before CCRI applied for the permits, faculty, staff and students were less cognizant of pollution prevention measures and some persons indiscriminately poured wastes from laboratory experiments down the drain. These wastes sometimes included heavy metals and toxic organic compounds. CCRI has no data on the amounts of toxic discharges since no sewage testing was required at the time. Now, in keeping with the permit requirements, the science departments conduct extensive pollution prevention training of their faculty and students. There are three components to pollution prevention, discussed elsewhere in this application. They are: a) Substitution, where possible, of less toxic chemicals for formerly used toxic substances, even though the NBC and the WSA do not specifically require this b) Significant reduction in the amounts of all chemicals used through microscale and semimicroscale laboratory techniques and c) Collection of all chemical wastes for removal from the premises by a licensed waste removal company rather than allowing them to go down the drain. Faculty are retrained yearly in CCRI's Waste Disposal Procedures and CCRI's Hazardous Waste Management Program. They are qualified to collect and segregate hazardous waste generated by their laboratory students. All sinks at all CCRI have placards warning against the disposal of any chemicals. Laboratory students, although trained and made fully aware of sewage discharge limits, are always closely supervised by faculty to make sure that no wastes such as heavy metal solutions and toxic organic compounds are poured down any sink drain. Wastes are stored in designated satellite accumulation areas in accordance with EPA regulations until they are moved to a main hazardous waste storage room prior to removal from campus.
  8. Photography Darkroom Pollution:
    1. Another major component of CCRI's compliance with sewage discharge permits is the installation of silver recovery equipment in the art department, public relations, dental and radiography darkrooms. When the darkrooms were first put into operation, all used chemicals were discharged directly to the sewer. These included the toxic organic compound hydroquinone and large amounts of silver, which directly interferes with bacterial sewage decomposition. Our discharge permits now allow only very low levels of silver in our sewage. At the Knight Campus, the allowed ten-day average is just 0.05 parts per million. At Flanagan, it is 0.24 ppm. To comply with these strict limits, silver recovery equipment costing more than $20,000 has been installed at the two campuses. The testing of our effluent required by the discharge permits costs about $500 a year. Equipment maintenance contracts cost $10,000 a year. Initial efforts to remove silver from photographic process solutions were unsuccessful. The chemical and ion exchange processes could not bring silver amounts down to the required levels. CCRI now uses a combination approach in which, under the supervision of the photography instructors, students collect all fixer and developer solutions for disposal as hazardous waste. The estimated cost for disposal of these wastes is $5,000 per year, a significant portion of CCRI's $35,000 annual hazardous waste removal budget. As a result, no toxins end up in the sewage treatment plants. Large volumes of wash water, which are low in silver are passed through ion-exchange columns and stripped of silver before being discharged to the sewer. With the systems properly maintained, laboratory analyses show no detectable silver at the discharge pipe. Silver removal is expensive and there is no immediate economic advantage to CCRI for complying with its sewage discharge permits, except that photography students receive excellent hands-on environmental compliance training. As with most of CCRI's environmental programs, the benefit is also to the health and safety of students and staff and to water quality in the state. A proposal at the Flanagan Campus would teach photography classes using digital equipment, rather than the conventional chemical process, to eliminate all silver discharges. The Knight Campus Public Relations darkroom is phasing out chemical use with a combination of digital photography and off-site photo developing.
  9. Microscale Chemistry:
    1. Three members of the chemistry department have been trained in the microscale laboratory techniques developed at The National Microscale Chemistry Center at Merrimack College. These techniques have been implemented and taught to students in all Organic Chemistry I and II experiments and to lesser extent, in General Chemistry and in Chemistry of Our Environment. Microscale Chemistry typically results in 75% savings in chemical procurement costs. After an initial investment of $10,000 for microscale organic chemistry glassware, the chemistry department saves about $2,000 in chemical costs and another $1,000 in yearly hazardous waste disposal costs. Microscale Chemistry also enables CCRI to store much smaller amounts of chemicals than in the past, reducing storage room hazards. It virtually eliminates any fire or explosion hazard for the students doing the labs and the chances of exposure to toxic materials are greatly reduced. In courses where actual microscale techniques are not taught, such as Health Science Chemistry, there has been a steady progression toward using smaller (semimicroscale) amounts of materials to conduct all laboratory experiments.
  10. Mercury Use Reduction:
    1. The US Environmental Protection Agency has issued a Mercury Challenge which seeks to reduce or eliminate the amount of mercury used in all academic and health care institutions. This initiative is supported by the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, which is banning the sale of many mercury-containing products in the state to protect waterways and food fish from mercury contamination. Recognizing its obligation to protecting the environment, CCRI has already virtually eliminated the use of elemental mercury in its facilities. Elemental (liquid) mercury was found in hundreds of laboratory and clinical thermometers, in barometers, sphygmomanometers, manometers, thermostats, demonstration devices, in glass bottles in storage rooms and in the dental clinic. A broken thermometer used to mean an elaborate cleanup process to ensure that no mercury vapor found its way into the laboratory air and that no liquid mercury found its way into the sewer. All mercury barometers, each of which used to contain two or three pounds of mercury, have been replaced by electronic ones. Mechanical or electronic models have replaced mercury thermostats. These measures have greatly reduced the likelihood of a mercury spill and the great disruption that can occur afterward. After elemental mercury supplies were removed from the chemistry laboratories, sink drain traps were removed and inspected for the presence of mercury that might have come from broken thermometers. Fortunately, none was found. Most mercury salts have been eliminated from chemistry experiments to reduce the chance of a sewer discharge violation. CCRI believes that the expense incurred for mercury disposal is small compared to the $50,000 that the EPA estimates is needed for the professional cleanup of a one-pound spill. Fluorescent lights are among the few places where mercury is found today at CCRI. These lights are not thrown in the trash after their useful life; they are removed from the premises by a licensed contractor for recycling of their mercury, glass, and aluminum content.
  11. Chemical Substitution:
    1. For the past twenty-five years, all laboratory departments, led by the chemistry department, have searched for environmentally benign substitutes for commonly used toxic and flammable materials. For instance, one gravimetric experiment in chemistry now produces non-toxic calcium carbonate instead of the highly toxic lead chromate once called for. Only nontoxic metal shot such as iron and manganese is allowed in certain chemistry experiments instead of the toxic lead shot once used. Chemistry and biology students are taught the reasons for these substitutions to increase their environmental awareness. To protect the health of building occupants and workmen, solvent-based adhesives are not used to install carpeting. Only water-based adhesives are permitted. The use of oil-base paints inside the buildings has been sharply curtained to cut down on occupant exposure to organic solvents. Latex paints are used wherever possible and aerosol cans are used only with a local exhaust system to protect the operator. Cost savings for this are hard to estimate. They are not large because some of the substitute materials are as expensive as the ones they replace. The primary benefit is the prevention of human illness and environmental pollution.
  12. Chemical Inventory Reduction:
    1. Going one step beyond EPA regulations and Rhode Island hazardous waste storage and disposal regulations, all departments are urged to dispose of all their excess chemical, paint and product inventory during the scheduled regular quarterly hazardous waste disposals. This has resulted in a more than 90% reduction of hazardous substance inventory, particularly in the art, chemistry, biology, allied health nursing and physics departments and in physical plant operations. In the science departments, all of the rarely used exotic chemicals once kept on hand because they might be useful some day are gone. This greatly reduces the chance of accidental mixing of incompatible chemicals or a fire starting by some forgotten bottle of a reactive substance. In the past all college and even high school chemical storerooms were densely packed with multiple bottles of a wide variety of chemicals that were never used. Whenever a blaze did occur, firemen faced a nightmarish mixture of poorly documented flammable and incompatible substances. In the unlikely event of a fire at CCRI, there are now far fewer flammable materials for the fire to feed on. Moreover, the greatly reduced number of containers makes understanding of any hazards much simpler. This does not mean that CCRI has sacrificed instructional quality. Chemistry or biology departments members may still request any chemical they need for a particular experiment. The difference is that large quantities are not purchased and that requests for extremely hazardous materials must be approved by the Chemical Safety Coordinator. Departments no longer buy excessive quantities of chemicals at the end of a fiscal year just because money is available. They are instructed to keep on hand only a six to twelve month's supply. The Art Department has sharply curtailed its use of paints and ceramic glazes containing the toxic heavy metals lead and cadmium. Most such toxic materials were not phased out gradually but instead were hauled away as hazardous waste and replaced with safer alternatives. Art instructors have been trained in the proper recovery of waste paints, pigments and glazes to keep them out of the sewer systems and out of the solid waste stream.
  13. Underground Storage Tank Removal:
    1. Prior to 1997, all USTs (underground storage tanks) used to store diesel and heating oil at CCRI were removed to eliminate the possibility of an undetected oil leak which could cause great environmental harm. The underground tanks were replaced with state of the art double-wall above-ground tanks of smaller, more manageable capacity. There were two USTs at the Knight Campus, one at the Liston Campus, and one at the Flanagan Campus. The cost of removal and replacing the four tanks was more than $12,000. No tangible cost reduction and economic benefits to CCRI were expected from this action. By taking this action, however, CCRI avoids the incalculable harm to the environment and the cleanup costs and penalties that would follow a leak from one of the tanks.
  14. Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) Plan:
    1. CCRI has a certified SPCC plan at the Knight Campus as required by law for facilities that store more than 1320 gallons of oil. The plan is designed to prevent the discharge of oil onto navigable waters. It was certified by a professional engineer and used to train key personnel responsible for detecting reporting and containing an oil spill. Complete compliance with all provisions of the plan includes the replacement of three single-wall outside oil storage tanks with tanks of approved double wall construction at a cost of $11,000. As with many other CCRI environmental projects, there is no economic benefit or cost savings to the college except that of protecting the environment. Even though a plan is not legally required at the Flanagan and Liston Campuses because they store less that than the amount of oil that triggers the plan, personnel at those campuses have received the same training in spill detection and mitigation.
  15. Student Environmental Awareness:
    1. There are two principal aspects of student environmental awareness and training at CCRI. The first is the extensive training that students receive in laboratory courses on hazardous waste management. All laboratory students are trained in the proper segregation and disposal of toxic wastes and are supervised by trained faculty so that no toxic materials are poured down the sink drains or put into the trash. Students are reminded that these concepts are not just for CCRI but must be applied wherever they go after graduation, whether to another college or into the workplace. Art department students taking photography learn to collect fixer and developer wastes that were formerly poured down the drain by all photography studios in the state. They learn the proper operation of the print washers so that low-level silver wastes are stripped of their silver by ion-exchange columns. The second component of student environmental awareness is the large number of courses directly designed to educate students about their environmental responsibilities. Chemistry of Our Environment, CHEM-1000, includes such topics as Air Pollution, Acid Rain, Photochemical Smog and Ozone Alerts, Destruction of The Ozone Layer by Halogenated Hydrocarbons, Global Warming, Greenhouse Gases, Water Pollution, Recycling of Metals and Plastics, Energy Demands, Energy Conservation and Clean Energy Production by Renewable Sources. All these topics are integrated with environmentally friendly laboratory experiments that emphasize use of safe materials, recycling and proper disposal of wastes. The syllabus for Chemistry of Our Environment may be viewed at: - *PDF file. The CCRI Biology Club recently conducted several innovative activities for students: An Earth Day Celebration was held at CCRI, including a campus cleanup and planting of flowers and shrubs. Outside speakers from Save the Bay and the Audubon Society addressed the participants. Future Earth Day Celebrations are planned yearly. Students took a field trip to the Worcester, Mass. Ecotarium, an environmental exhibit and museum. Biology Club students have to work with physical plant personnel to expand the recycling program for cans and bottles at the Knight Campus. Others in the club participated in a state project to map Rhode Island watershed areas. In the courses BIOL-1001 (Introduction to Biology: Organismal) and BIOL-1002 (Introduction to Biology: Cellular) students study antibiotic resistance, invasive plant species, population growth, mass extinction and the loss of biodiversity. Additional information on these courses can be seen on the biology department WebPages at - *PDF file (for online versions see available courses)
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  16. Northeast Partnership for Environmental Technology Education:
    1. CCRI has been a member since 1994 of NE PETE, the Northeast Partnership for Environmental Technology Education. NE PETE is an organization established to link the region's community and technical colleges with business and industry and the technical resources of state and federal agencies as partners to ensure the availability of a trained and educated environmental technology workforce that is prepared to meet the environmental opportunities and challenges of the 21st century. Through NE PETE, CCRI continues to explore ways of integrating practical environmental experience with its technical programs in order to better prepare its students for jobs in today's workplace.
  17. Staff Training:
    1. Members of the CCRI community are carefully trained in all aspects of pollution prevention, chemical safety and hazardous waste management. As dictated by their job duties, Campus Police officers, science laboratory faculty and paraprofessionals, physical plant personnel and selected student employees have received initial training and are retrained yearly in the Bloodborne Pathogen Standard, Hazardous Substance Release Emergency Response Plan, Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure Plan, Personal Protective Equipment, Used Oil Management Plan, Hazardous Substance Right-To-Know Act, Recycling, Latex Product Safety, Chemical Hygiene Plan, Hazardous Waste Management, Hazardous Waste Disposal, Laboratory Safety for Students and Pesticide Management.
  18. EPA Program Participation:
    1. In the background of many of CCRI's environmental and pollution prevention programs is the college's participation is the informational activities offered by Region 1 of the United States EPA. Since 1997, a representative from CCRI has attended virtually every EPA meeting in New England on RCRA compliance and environmental management systems for colleges and universities. CCRI credits the knowledge gained and the contacts made at these meetings for the advanced state of its environmental programs. At the present time, CCRI is discussing whether to participate in the Environmental Management System Pilot Program developed by the University of Massachusetts-Lowell through an EPA-New England grant, in the hopes of becoming a regional example of comprehensive environmental compliance.