PCBs removed after 14 years

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By Carol Hilton

The question of how to deal with Ryerson’s PCB waste is now somebody else’s problem.

After storing the toxins for four years with no plan for their disposal, 88 drums containing PCBs were removed from campus this summer. The barrels were transported to a storage site in Bowmanville owned by T. S. Environmental Services, according to Ian Hamilton, director of campus planning and facilities.

“The service cost $58,000 and included a transfer of title to the PCBs,” Hamilton said. This means Ryerson is no longer responsible for the chemicals.

PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, were commonly used in electrical transformers and capacitors as insulating fluid. However, PCB production was banned 1976 after exposure to the liquid was linked to cancer, neurological problems and other health concerns.

Ryerson acquired the PCBs in capacitors from fluorescent light fixtures in 1971, before the ban. The fixtures were replaced in 1995. Although the university recognized the need to plan for the disposal of the chemicals in 1985, it has taken 14 years to address he problem.

“This year was simply [the PCBs’] turn,” Hamilton said. “It was a priority and it fit within the funding envelope.”

Ryerson still has two transformers using PCBs as a coolant. They will be replaced once they stop working, Hamilton said.

“For now, they are functioning normally and pose no risk,” he said. The transformers are inspected monthly and meet the standards set by the Ministry of Environment, he said.

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