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NIH's 'Green' Efforts Recognized

The Maryland department of the environment recently recognized NIH as its "Maryland Member of the Month," for its variety of pollution prevention efforts, recently highlighted in a newsletter circulated among members of Businesses for the Bay, a voluntary group dedicated to preserving the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

The news release cited the Division of Safety as recognizing a 10-fold increase in generation of low-level radioactive hazardous wastes (mixed wastes) in the late 1980's, and subsequently focusing on minimizing these waste streams. DS instituted a waste management program requiring all users of radioactive materials to receive training on source reduction techniques and encouraged the use of non-radioactive methods in biomedical research.

By 2000, the increased awareness resulted in a greater than 99 percent reduction in generation of mixed wastes, even though the research work load since the 1980's has increased significantly, said the article.

NIH was also credited with the development, testing and first permitting of a novel application of ultraviolet peroxidation treatment technology to destroy organic compounds in aqueous mixed wastes. The process oxidizes organic compounds to carbon dioxide and water, creating no residues or air emissions.

The publication also lauded NIH's recent Campaign for a Mercury-Free NIH, which resulted in the elimination of 1,500 mercury-containing devices in the Clinical Center. The hospital is now considered mercury-free. Also recognized were NIH's adoption of ozone action day plans (which include notifying employees of Code Red days through email and flags at the entrances to the campus; encouraging grounds maintenance to halt the use of gasoline engine equipment; asking that trucks not idle at loading docks; encouraging the use of Montgomery County's free "Ride On" bus service; encouraging NIH police to use bicycles; and switching to natural gas to reduce power plant emissions).

According to the state, NIH has been able to reduce single occupancy vehicles by more than 30 percent over 10 years through public transit subsidies and carpooling. Approximately 55 percent of NIH'ers currently use a mode of transportation other than a single occupancy vehicle.

NIH also leads the Department of Health and Human Services in the percentage of government vehicles converted to alternative, renewable fuels. Thirty-five percent of the fleet is now using ethanol, and biodiesel produced from soybeans. All remaining gasoline-powered vehicles will be replaced with vehicles that will use these alternative fuels.

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