SUNY Potsdam students produce EPA manual


Two SUNY Potsdam Environmental Studies students attended the EPA Region 2 Indian Leaders meeting in Syracuse, November 18, where their draft manual on collecting household hazardous waste was critiqued. Ian Isler and Michelle Davis attended the meeting in order to observe the feedback process from the Tribal Leaders. Several SUNY Potsdam students assisted the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe’s Solid Waste Project Manager, Laura Weber, in creating a tribal guide under an EPA grant. The tribal guide will be geared toward managing household hazardous wastes (HHW).

The effectiveness of the manual as a learning tool was measured at the semi-annual meeting. Tribal Leaders were asked to rate the importance of each section of the table of contents in setting up a HHW collection program in their tribe. The manual will be revised and finalized by Laura Weber based on the feedback. Laura Weber is a national leader in safe and ecological solid waste management.

The students who wrote the manual are Ian Isler, Dan Rockefeller, IIana Trombly, and Nasif Kayanja; Jason Koumourdas edited it with his teacher, Dr. Jennifer Mitchell. The students wrote and edited a detailed manual based on other waste collection manuals and their own research as a project for their COMP 304 Technical Writing class.

The HHW guide is meant to provide everything that a Tribe needs to know in order to design and implement an HHW management program in their community.  It can be used to educate their community members about the proper management of HHW.  Students will be credited as the named authors of the manual. 

“It was a lot of work in a short period of time, but we had a lot of help from our editors. We didn’t reinvent the wheel. We researched what other tribes are doing and compiled into one document fitted for tribal management of HHW,” Dan Rockefeller said about drafting the manual.  The final copy will be mailed to the Region 2 Tribes and made available to other Tribes by posting it on the SRMT’s Web site in order to promote HHW collection.

In addition to drafting the manual, three students, Rachel Graf, Eric Sammis and Elizabeth Pulsifer attended the Tribes’ HHW Collection Day October 24.  Objects collected included hazardous materials such as paint, household cleaners, insecticides and motor oil.

The students volunteered and observed at the Collection Day in order to better understand the HHW collection process. Eric Sammis said, “The collection day was an improvement over last year’s.  There was increased attendance and volume of HHW collected. We spoke with Laura Weber and the onsite chemists about pros and cons of the collection day, its organization and what happens to the waste after it’s collected.  “We made a lot of observations and are proposing suggestions for improvement.” They compiled a completion report that gave an account of the collection day and the steps involved.  They also noted minor organizational problems, and suggested possible solutions. As lead writer for that subgroup, Matthew MacDonald compiled observations and notes about the collection day into an outline for inclusion in the manual.

For more information about SUNY Potsdam’s Environmental Studies Program and English Writing major, visit