UCD is dealing with concerns over breaches in its security measures for the storage of hazardous laboratory waste on campus. The response comes after the Tribune identified a breach in the security of the UCD Conway Institute’s hazardous lab waste disposal compound.
The storage of potentially infectious waste products from laboratories in the university must be kept away from the public in secure locked areas under safety regulations. Infectious biological waste from lab work and research is placed in special yellow and grey bins, and then kept at the back of research buildings in fenced sections. Access to these areas is restricted to only those with electronic key cards. However, the fence of the compound securing the lab waste bins at the back of the Conway Institute in UCD was breached for over three months the Tribune can report.
The compromised fence meant the lab waste bins at the back of the Conway research institute were potentially accessible to anyone. The yellow and grey bins are used to store potentially infectious biological waste. Warning signs on the bins themselves states “in case of damage or leakage immediately notify public health authority.” It is believed the breach was a result of the fence being in a state of poor condition, and not as a result of a deliberate act.
A spokeswoman for UCD said they were not aware of the issue when the Tribune brought up the breach, but that it did “raise concerns.” The source would not comment on what policies are in place to ensure fences and the security around stored lab waste is routinely maintained. She stated “security measures vary from building to building, depending on the nature of use.”
The university spokesperson did however add that “the relevant college principals have been asked to review the processes in place around the storage and disposal of hazardous waste and maintenance of fences around storage areas. The fence breach to which you referred has now been mended.”
The O’Brien Science Centre, the Health Sciences building, and the Veterinary Nursing building all have their own cordoned off areas where they store their lab waste. Upon investigating these compounds, the Tribune found further lax security measures. At one stage in August the gate securing the green chemical waste drums of the O’Brien Science Centre was left open, unattended and unlocked.
Image: Chemical Drums Stored by the Science Centre.
The UCD Chemical Safety manual, distributed to staff or students working in labs or with waste states that “failure to dispose of waste in accordance with legal requirements can lead to the prosecution of both the university and the individual concerned.”
Jack Power | Editor