BAR HARBOR, Maine — Hancock County’s largest employer, known as a worldwide leader in the field of biomedical research, is facing a possible fine of more than $200,000 over alleged federal environmental violations.
The Jackson Laboratory could be fined $213,670 for improperly storing chemicals, insufficiently training employees in hazardous waste management, and for failing to notify local and state emergency response officials about the amount of hazardous materials stored at its Route 3 campus, according to a press release issued Thursday by the federal Environmental Protection Agency.
The fine is proposed in an EPA administrative order.
The press release described the suspected violating materials as “potentially explosive peroxide-forming chemicals” and indicated they were found in three of the organization’s local labs.
The release said Jackson Lab allegedly used in-house staff to provide hazardous waste training to other employees but the staff members providing the training “were never properly trained themselves.”
The Maine Department of Environmental Protection issued violation notices to Jackson Lab for hazardous waste infractions in 2003 and 2005, according to the release. Some of the alleged violations cited by EPA are repeat occurrences of violations previously cited at the lab by Maine DEP, the release indicated.
In a prepared statement issued Thursday afternoon by Jackson Lab, lab officials indicated the allegations stem from an inspection that happened two years ago. The inspection was EPA’s first ever at the lab even though the lab, in accordance with the law, first declared its use of hazardous materials in 1986, according to the lab statement.
“The Jackson Laboratory operates at the highest safety standards, including its handling of the small amounts of hazardous materials and waste present on our campus,” lab officials said. “None of the allegations represents any threat to the environment or safety of our campus or town.”
Most of the allegations focus on “minor paperwork lapses” and have since been addressed, according to the lab.
The substances that came to the EPA’s attention amount to “five pint-sized containers” that were not proven to be dangerous and that were safely removed immediately after the inspection, the lab indicated. It said it has since addressed staff certification and training issues and has “extremely close collaborations” with local and state fire emergency response officials. The materials such agencies were unaware of include rock salt, fuel oil, and other “everyday materials,” the lab said.
“We look forward to meeting with EPA representatives to affirm the laboratory’s long-standing commitment to environmental health and safety,” the statement read.
Jackson Lab is known worldwide for using mice to conduct scientific research on human diseases and genetics, and for breeding mice used by other research institutions around the globe. The lab employs approximately 1,300 people at its Bar Harbor facility and about 100 more elsewhere.