Massachusetts Institute of Technology Penalized $15,000 by MassDEP for Numerous Air Quality Violations at its Central Utility Plant


BOSTON – The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) penalized the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) $15,000 for air quality violations that occurred during 2010 and 2011. The violations were discovered after MassDEP reviewed reports submitted by MIT in 2012 and after MassDEP inspected MIT’s central utility plant on Vassar Street in Cambridge, which houses boilers, a combustion turbine and an emergency generator; and conducted campus-wide inspections of emergency generators and boilers, focusing on their locations, exhaust stacks and emission records.

The air violations at the central utility plant included: excess opacity (visible emissions); excess carbon monoxide emissions; excessive down-time for its continuous emission monitoring system (CEMS) for carbon monoxide; excessive down-time for its opacity analyzer; and excessive downtime for its CEMS for nitrogen oxides, a contributor to ground-level ozone.

“The inability to adequately monitor the facility’s air quality emissions, in a manner that is consistent with its operating permit, is unacceptable,” said Eric Worrall, acting Regional Director of MassDEP’s Northeast Regional Office in Wilmington.

In addition to the penalty, MIT has agreed to establish within 60 days a plan to implement a training program for all personnel involved with the CEMSs and Continuous Opacity Monitoring Systems that will also include refresher training sessions occurring at least twice a year.

Further, MIT by December 31, 2013 will have upgraded the exhaust stacks for the existing natural gas boilers and emergency diesel engine/generator sets cited in the violations. The exact physical modification for each exhaust stack will be based on ongoing evaluation and will include one or more of the following: increasing stack height; modifying the exhaust stack to vent vertically; removing existing rain caps on the exhaust stacks where appropriate; and, installing active particulate matter filters on the diesel engines where appropriate.

Finally, by March 31, 2014, MIT will have either installed an active particulate matter filter on a previously installed diesel generator or permanently removed this generator from service.

MassDEP is responsible for ensuring clean air and water, safe management and recycling of solid and hazardous wastes, timely cleanup of hazardous waste sites and spills, and preservation of wetlands and coastal resources.