Oxidizers, acids and flammable toxics.

Nitric acid, mercury, you name it.

Toxic being the linking word between each.

Chemicals no longer used by Beatrice Public Schools science classes, bottles and containers gathering dust on the shelves of storage closets and the potential danger they held for students, staff and community members have been removed from classrooms.

Clean Harbors, a hazardous waste disposal company based in Massachusetts, cleared 320 pounds of chemicals no longer being used in science courses and their containers Monday at Beatrice High School and Beatrice Middle School.

The program was a joint effort between Keep Nebraska Beautiful, the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality and the Nebraska Department of Education.

Alan Grell of Keep Nebraska Beautiful, said the program, the Nebraska Chemical Clearout Campaign, has been increasing the safety of schools for nearly eight years.

“In about 2004-2005, we got a bunch of agencies together to look at one, is there a need in Nebraska for this program and two, is there a will to execute it?” Grell explained.

Keep Nebraska Beautiful received a grant through the Environmental Protection Agency for $150,000 that allowed the organization to begin public service announcements and write education materials with regards to disposing of chemical waste in schools.

“Right now, we’re at the neighborhood of $1 million. It’s expensive to get rid of these products,” Grell said.

Clean Harbors removed the materials from Beatrice Monday on a tour of southeast Nebraska, Grell said. The company takes the chemicals to a factory in Arkansas where they are incinerated.

In all, hazardous chemicals no longer being used in classes have been removed from 212 of a targeted 292 schools, including 23 in southeast Nebraska.

BHS science teacher Dr. Joan Christen said many of the chemicals removed from the buildings have not been used in years.

“There were some chemicals in the middle school that were sitting around from the days when it was the high school,” she said.

The school hopes to minimize risk of chemicals in the future by only purchasing chemicals it needs and not stockpiling chemicals that may end up sitting on the shelves.

“In the future, we’re going to order what we need instead of ordering surplus of chemicals,” Christen said. “Plus, some of these chemicals are no longer used in the classroom because our knowledge has expanded and we know some things are not good to use.”

Grell said cleaning out chemical supplies may also have benefits for rescue workers in the event of a fire at the school.

"Now, firefighters will not have to worry about what kind of chemicals they may encounter if the building is on fire," Grell said. "It's just a safety issue all around."


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