CU officials taking stock for Homeland Security mandate
An inventory of CU’s potentially hazardous chemical materials will be completed by Dec. 19, according to the Department of Homeland Security.
CU’s laboratories are currently undergoing an inventory to determine the location and quantity of “chemicals of interest.”
Universities across the nation are responding to a mandate from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security requiring all buildings that store chemicals to undergo an intensive cataloging process.
The mandate is intended to prevent terrorist attacks involving chemicals.
“From a safety perspective, having a sense of the types of chemicals that are on campus is a good thing,” said Derrick Watson, director of Environmental Health and Safety. “It’s a matter of community health and safety.”
According to Homeland Security, “chemicals of interest” include those that are toxic, flammable or explosive. Chemicals with the potential to be used as or converted into weapons if stolen are also of interest.
Homeland Security is also looking at any chemicals that can be mixed with other materials to create a threat to human life.
Abby Nimz, a freshman MCD biology major, said she thinks the inventory may be excessive.
“It seems weird,” Nimz said. “I don’t think anyone will go take a flask and fill it with dangerous chemicals.”
Watson said CU has had a chemical inventory system in place for over five years.
“This isn’t a new item by any means for us,” Watson said. “Long before Homeland Security was created, we were working to track and monitor our chemicals on campus.”
Homeland Security gave CU little time to complete the inventory, Watson said.
“The timeline they gave us was quite short,” Watson said. “This is a challenge. However, we’ve heard rumblings of this coming down the pipes for some time.”
Watson said although he is uncertain as to the university’s inventory progress so far, he is confident CU will be able to meet the Dec. 19 deadline.
“From what I’ve heard, the comments from staff and faculty are pretty consistent,” said Chemical Management Specialist Mindy Hodges. “It’s not something that they would rather spend their time doing, but they have been handling it nicely.”
The locations and quantities of over 340 chemicals are being determined through the inventory, Hodges said.
“We are working hard to smooth the process,” Hodges said.
CU labs will first be evaluated to determine whether the university possesses a number of potentially dangerous chemicals at or above the “screening threshold standard”.
The screening threshold standards are unique to each chemical on Homeland Security’s list and represent the point at which a given quantity of a chemical becomes dangerous.
If the university is found to have exceeded the threshold standard, it is required to complete an online assessment tool called the Top-Screen. This tool will help assess whether a facility like CU presents a notable security threat, according to Homeland Security.
Watson said without the data from the inventories, it is difficult to anticipate whether CU will be required to complete the Top-Screen.
“It’s a bit premature to talk about that,” Watson said. “Until we get more data, it’s hard to speculate.”
Contact Campus Press Staff Writer Katherine Spencer at firstname.lastname@example.org.