News and Announcements 2008

Whether your laboratory equipment  has outlived its useful lifespan, is just taking up valuable space, or simply needs to be moved from one location to another, Columbia University Facilities at the Morningside Campus is well equipped to handle just about anything you and your laboratory may offer up for moving or disposal.  Before Facilities is asked to handle your equipment it is important to ensure that it is  properly decontaminated before leaving your laboratory.  In addition, you must also have your equipment certified free of contamination if you offer up your equipment for relocation by an outside commercial mover.

Equipment Decontamination.
Environmental Health & Safety, along with Facilities Management, manage a Laboratory Equipment Clearance program at the Morningside Campus.   All laboratory equipment and potentially contaminated furniture used in a laboratory must be cleared by EH&S prior to disposal through Facilities.  The first step in the process is determining whether or not you need to have your equipment cleared by EH&S.  For example, if the equipment was used in an office or had no potentialfor exposure to chemical, biological, or radioactive materials, clearance through EH&S is not necessary.   All other equipment must be certified that it is free of contamination prior to disposal as follows.

  • Any equipment that contains a radioactive source or that potentially came in contact with radioactive materials must be tested and cleared by a Radiation Safety Officer from EH&S prior to handling for disposal.
  • Equipment that has been used in experiments involving biological materials must be decontaminated with a 10% bleach solution by laboratory personnel prior to handling for disposal.  All exposed surfaces of the equipment or potentially contaminated furniture must  be wiped down with the bleach solution.  In addition, if your laboratory is disposing of a Biological Safety Cabinet (BSC) that has been used with infectious agents, you will need to contact your BSC service vendor for decontamination.  EH&S can provide guidance as needed.
  • In general, other laboratory equipment can  be decontaminated with soap and water solution or mild detergent.  If your equipment appears too contaminated to perform decontamination safely, contact EH&S for guidance.
  • Finally, any equipment that contains oil or refrigerants (e.g., air conditioners or refrigerators), must be properly drained of its contents  prior to disposal.  In the case of equipment with oils, the owner of the equipment must drain the oil and collect it for disposal through EH&S prior to disposal of the equipment.  Contact EH&S for guidance if necessary.  Refrigerant recovery is performed by Facilities and the equipment owner should contact Facilities at 4-2222 to arrange for refrigerant recovery.  Facilities provides refrigerant recovery at no fee.       

Equipment Clearance
The next step in the process is to have the equipment or furniture “cleared”  by EH&S.  This is as simple as calling EH&S at 854-8749 and requesting an equipment clearance.  EH&S staff will visit your laboratory, ask a few questions about the equipment to be moved or discarded, verify that it has been decontaminated as described above  and affix “Clearance Tape” to your equipment.  A clearance form will be filled out as a record of equipment clearance and the laboratory will be presented a copy for their records.  This process will indicate to Facilities that it is safe to handle and dispose of the equipment.
Equipment Disposal
There are a few pathways to dispose of your laboratory equipment at the Morningside campus.  Call the Service Center at 854-2222 to arrange for pickup of the cleared equipment through Facilities.  Please note that there is a service charge for using this service.  Alternatively, Facilities Operations is offering open hours at the “Grove” where laboratories and departments may bring equipment that has been cleared by EH&S.  There is no charge to you if you move your own equipment.  The only requirements are that it is “cleared” by EH&S and that you can move it safely to the Grove without risk of injury or incident.If you choose to move your own equipment, you may do so on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10am until 2pm.  During these hours Facilities staff will receive laboratory equipment with clearance tape or non-contaminated office furniture and equipment.  Please bring a copy of your clearance form issued by EH&S as you may be asked to present it in the Grove.    Anyone who drops off laboratory equipment in the Grove that has not been properly cleared EH&S in cur a handling fee from Facilities equal to the cost for labor that would have been charged if Facilities had been asked to remove the equipment from the laboratory.

Last but not least…
Please help us protect the safety of Columbia employees and the environment by properly handling equipment at the end of its useful life.  While electronic equipment does not need to be cleared, computers, monitors, laptops and similar items must not be placed with regular trash.   More information may be found about Columbia University’s recycling programs at  Please remember that every waste item generated at Columbia University has an appropriate recycling or disposal program, so please take the extra effort to locate the disposal outlet for your wastes. 

The University’s Environmental Management System prescribes that periodic program evaluations be performed in the form of a compliance audit no less often than triennially. The last audit was conducted in Fall 2009.  The next audit is scheduled to commence on April 2, 2012 at Morningside and will conclude on April 26, 2012at Lamont-Doherty. The complete audit schedule can be viewed here:

EH&S, in partnership with the Facilities Compliance Offices at Morningside and CUMC and the Safety Office at Lamont-Doherty, will be leading the University-wide audit of laboratories and physical plants. Throughout the audit, EH&S will be accompanied by representatives from Woodard & Curran, an independent safety and environmental consulting firm, hired to assist us with the assessment.  

The general scope of the laboratory portion of the audit includes an evaluation of practices related to chemical management/hygiene, laboratory safety, and waste management and laboratory safety training compliance.  EH&S recommends laboratory personnel review the Laboratory Safety components of the University’s Health & Safety Manual, including the specific program components below, and the laboratory’s compliance with safety training requirements (and refresh training in RASCAL as necessary).

If you have questions about the audit scope or audit schedule, please do not hesitate to contact EH&S @ [email protected].  To request a pick-up of chemical waste or radioactive waste please click the appropriate hyperlink.  Thank you for your continued support and cooperation.