When a Medical School research team finishes a project, not all of its results end up in the New England Journal of Medicine. Many of the byproducts are thrown out the back door--into the waiting clutches of a hazardous waste disposal truck.
Disposing of wastes--from low-level radioactive liquids to chemical solids--plagues others besides Harvard, of course. From down river at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in Washington, the problem of finding sites to store dangerous sludge is growing.
For Harvard, the situation became acute last spring when its old dumping site in South Carolina suddenly closed down.
Parker L. Coddington, director of government relations, called the situation a "Catch 22." "For a while there," he explained, "we couldn't ship it, and we couldn't store it."
And now, as both federal and state agencies are considering rewriting the regulations which govern waste disposal, Harvard has called a group of University officials together to discuss the problem as well as proposed Environmental Protection Agencies rules which threaten to inflate disposal costs drastically.
Meanwhile, research at Harvard's medical schools and affiliated-hospitals continues, and wastes continue to pile up. And, as federal officials said this week, the situation will get worse before it gets better.