Announces System to Track Radioactive Materials
New Web-based System Is Available To Universities Nationwide
Contact: Lori Wright
UNH Media Relations
June 14, 2004
DURHAM, N.H. – As the United States enters
a summer of heightened concern regarding terrorist attacks, the
of New Hampshire announces it has expanded its comprehensive online
system that tracks hazardous materials to include radioactive materials,
such as substances that could be used to manufacture a dirty bomb.
The UNH Chemical Environmental Management System
(UNHCEMS) was developed by the UNH Research Computing Center
(RCC) in consultation
with the UNH Office
of Environmental Health and Safety. The Web-based system allows public and
private research institutions to manage hazardous chemicals and radioactive
materials stored at multiple locations on their campuses.
Radioactive materials are common in medicine and
research, according to Brad Manning, director of UNH Environmental
Health and Safety.
UNHCEMS already tracks
thousands of chemical and radioactive materials, and UNH is working to expand
the system to track biological agents, such as anthrax and the plague.
“From the standpoint of Homeland Security and the U.S. Patriot Act, this
systemdramatically increases the ability of universities to track specific radioactive
materials. For example, if we need to determine if we have a particular hazard
on campus, we can query the system and find out within a minute if that substance
is on campus and exactly where it is located,” Manning says.
The system also tracks radioactive decay for materials.
Radioactive materials decay, or disintegrate, at different rates.
decay of all radioactive materials stored on campuses, UNHCEMS can accurately
the level of radioactivity of the materials.
“Most universities do not maintain comprehensive,
online inventories of their hazardous materials. Most universities
simply don’t have that information available or up-to-date.
My counterparts at other universities have had to hire people to
go out and look in every laboratory – hundreds of laboratories
– to find these hazards,” Manning says. “Unlike
many universities, we know what our risk factors are.”
A case study of UNHCEMS published by the Environmental
Protection Agency was included in the EPA’s best management
practices catalog for colleges and universities regarding homeland
UNHCEMS was developed as part of a
settlement agreement with the agency following an EPA inspection at UNH five
years ago. At the time, UNH was found to have violated the Resource Conservation
and Recovery Act regarding waste disposal in laboratories.
“This online chemical management system holds great potential
to help universities and colleges improve tracking and management
of chemicals and wastes,” says Robert W. Varney, regional
administrator of EPA's New England Office. “We've found in
our inspections that many colleges are wasting significant amounts
of chemicals because they do not have systems in place for accurately
recording the identity, quantity and location of materials. This
system holds great promise to reverse this problem, resulting in
campuses that are safer and better for the environment.”
Brown University and the University of Massachusetts
at Amherst are using UNHCEMS, and numerous universities and hospitals
have expressed interest
in the system,
according to Manning. In addition, a government delegation from Macedonia
recently visited UNH and was presented the system as an option for part
of its national
emergency response system. Universities and other organizations can easily
access the system via the Web, with data and software securely stored at
Institutions wanting to learn more about UNHCEMS
can visit www.cems-info.sr.unh.edu
or contact Patrick Messer, associate director of the UNH Research
Computing Center, at 603-862-2889.
Editors: Brad Manning, director of UNH Environmental Health and
Safety, is available for press inquiries. He can be reached at 603-862-2571.