CORVALLIS, Ore. – Corvallis High School was home to a spring cleaning on Thursday, when a consultant with the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality worked with teachers to dispose of outdated or hazardous chemicals.
Schools are teaming up with the DEQ and county health departments for the Oregon School Lab Cleanup Program.
Dave Waddell, a DEQ consultant, says the school visits are not inspections.
“Many times teachers will leave, but they take with them the knowledge of experiments with certain chemicals,” he said. “When they leave, those chemicals just stay in the stockrooms and nobody’s using them.”
But Waddell says even if schools wanted to get rid of unused chemicals, they might not be able to afford it.
“The cost of disposal is always the largest barrier to schools participating in something like this,” he said. “It’s very expensive to dispose of hazardous waste.”
Benton County is paying $5,000 to pay for the disposal of chemicals collected at schools within the county.
“Now is a good opportunity for schools to clean those chemicals out,” said Gordon Brown, Senior Environmental Health Specialist with the Benton County Health Department. “It’s difficult for a lot of schools to pay for that disposal. And it’s a great learning experience and training experience for the teachers.”
This week, Waddell is visiting schools in Benton County. On Thursday morning, he visited CHS.
“I’m from Seattle,” he said. “When we did the cleanouts in Seattle, where we have 75 high schools, we brought in the Bomb Squad into 40 of them.”
He did not have to call the Bomb Squad to Corvallis High School, though he says last week while in the Medford area, he called the Bomb Squad to three schools.
He says no matter the laboratory, Waddell says he will always find an issue. But he says Corvallis High School is doing much better than most other schools.
“I’m really impressed by how well things are stored,” he said. “And the fact that the science labs have almost nothing that we found in there. Typically we’re pulling hundreds and hundreds of bottles out. I think we pulled seven.”
Alhough Waddell pulled several items from the science labs, staff say the stockrooms are areas where students are not allowed.
But the DEQ is not just checking science laboratories. Waddell also visited the art room, the jewelry classroom, and the ceramics building.
“The art department – even though they had a lot of old, toxic stuff – it was boxed and out of the way and they were willing to get rid of all of it,” Waddell said. “So this is great. Way better than usual.”
Waddell is also visiting Crescent Valley, Philomath High School, Monroe High School, and other area schools.