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TO:                  Superintendents of Schools

FROM:            Susan A. Gendron, Commissioner of Education

DATE:             June 9, 2005

SUBJECT:      Chemicals in Schools

            Recently the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Natural Resources (NRC) heard a bill (L.D. 1157) that was submitted in response to a growing concern from the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), and others, who believe and testified that the presence of hazardous chemicals in our schools are a significant health threat to our students and other building occupants.   Since 1991, Maine Department of Education (MDOE) has had rules (MDOE Regulation 161) that govern the identification, purchase, storage, and disposal of hazardous chemicals in schools.   Due to a variety of factors, application of these rules has been inconsistent and uneven.   In response to L.D. 1157, the NRC directed MDOE and DEP to create a document of understanding, in consultation with the Department of Labor and Department of Agriculture, that would ensure that the provisions of MDOE Regulation 161 are enforced to mitigate the presence of hazardous chemicals in schools and to provide an ongoing program of compliance.   In short, the Department has been directed, in cooperation with DEP, to enforce the provisions of MDOE Regulation 161.

            Under MDOE Regulation 161, DEP regulations, and current Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) regulations, (which Maine has adopted for public employees), all districts are required to have and/or do the following:

29 CFR 1910.1450.

Schools that have not submitted evidence of full compliance with the above provisions by September 21, 2005 shall be subject to penalties outlined under 20-A MRSA Section 6801-A or other penalties as allowed by other departments and regulations.   Districts will be notified on or by October 31, 2005 as to whether they are in compliance with these provisions, or not.

Funding for the initial clean up of chemicals shall be at the expense of each district.   Limited funding may be available from the School Renovation Fund (SRRF) for extreme cases.   The SRRF application is available at    The on-going annual disposal costs should be a consideration when these chemicals are purchased.

School are reminded to pay particular attention to 38 MRSA Section 1301 et seq. and 40 CFR 260-266, which cover the disposal of chemicals and must be carefully followed.

            The MDOE will immediately begin a revision of MDOE Regulation 161 to more closely reflect and update current safety practices in our schools regarding the identification, purchasing, storage, and disposal of hazardous chemicals.   School personnel will be well represented among the stakeholders involved in this rule-making process.

            If you have questions, or if you need further assistance, please e-mail:

            A website that contains much of the information referenced here has been established at under the School Facilities Management Template section.