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Research Article

Reducing environmental risk associated with laboratory decommissioning and property transfer.


The need for more or less space is a common laboratory problem. Solutions may include renovating existing space, leaving or demolishing old space, or acquiring new space or property for building. All of these options carry potential environmental risk. Such risk can be the result of activities related to the laboratory facility or property (e.g., asbestos, underground storage tanks, lead paint), or the research associated with it (e.g., radioactive, microbiological, and chemical contamination). Regardless of the option chosen to solve the space problem, the potential environmental risk must be mitigated and the laboratory space and/or property must be decommissioned or rendered safe prior to any renovation, demolition, or property transfer activities. Not mitigating the environmental risk through a decommissioning process can incur significant financial liability for any costs associated with future decommissioning cleanup activities. Out of necessity, a functioning system, environmental due diligence auditing, has evolved over time to assess environmental risk and reduce associated financial liability. This system involves a 4-phase approach to identify, document, manage, and clean up areas of environmental concern or liability, including contamination. Environmental due diligence auditing includes a) historical site assessment, b) characterization assessment, c) remedial effort and d) final status survey. General practice standards from the American Society for Testing and Materials are available for conducting the first two phases. However, standards have not yet been developed for conducting the third and final phases of the environmental due diligence auditing process. Individuals involved in laboratory decommissioning work in the biomedical research industry consider this a key weakness.