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CTPI program to raise $10 million

By Annabelle Boyd

The Center for Technology, Policy, and Industrial Development is in the process of soliciting $10 million from corporate industry to finance the expansion of its hazardous substances program.

An interdepartmental program between the Departments of Civil Engineering, Chemical Engineering, and Urban Studies and Planning, the hazardous substances program is primarily concerned with safe and effective chemical waste disposal.

CTPI has sought "major contributions" to the program from a corporate partnership plan, according to Senior Research Associate John R. Ehrenfeld '53. In this plan, 10 partners would each commit themselves to providing $1 million to the program over a ten-year period. This corporate support comes with virtually no strings, and is being used to carry out activities that are not possible through other sources of support, Ehrenfeld said.

Four corporations -- AMOCO, British Petroleum, Dow Chemical, and MontEdison -- have already subscribed to the program. Ehrenfeld said he expects to have six more corporations join the program within the next few years.

Many corporations have expressed interest in the program, but there are many different research groups asking for funding in the environmental area, according to Director of Corporate Development Frederick P. Gross '73. Since the hazardous substances program has just started, there exists no track record of the group working together to solve problems. However, Gross said he was confident that once the group begins to produce results, those results "will convince companies that MIT is the place to invest."

Background of hazardous

substance program

Over the last two-and-half years the hazardous substances program has evolved into an interdepartmental program which consists of three components -- education, research, and policy -- and which is designed to integrate support from both private and government auspices.

"So far, the education effort has produced four courses -- an upper-graduate level sequence called Chemicals in the Environment," Ehrenfeld said.

On the research side, through collaboration of many in the faculty, and a joint steering of the program by six faculty members, an interdisciplinary research group has emerged which primarily investigates the direct interactions between chemicals, deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), and proteins, as well as ground water phenomena and clean-up technologies, and incineration for treatment of hazardous waste.

Much of the environmental work is done in Parsons Laboratory, as part of the civil engineering department. Most of the incineration research is done through the chemical engineering department. Ehrenfeld and the Center of Environmental Health Sciences do the necessary coordinating between the departments and within the hazardous substances program itself.

The third component which the program addresses is policy between corporations and the government toward chemical waste and the appropriate disposal of chemical waste.

"In the complicated area of hazardous substance, technology and policy have to work hand-in-hand," Ehrenfeld said. As part of the movement to incorporate private business with public government to try to resolve environmental abuse issues, the hazardous substances program attempts to link industry and government together in a positive working relationship, Ehrenfeld said.

The program is supported by a variety of financial sources. Two major long-term federal program grants provide about $2 million a year, according to Ehrenfeld. Both of the grants are authorized by a piece of 1986 legislation created by Congress to clean-up old chemical dumps. The program also receives a health-related grant which is being carried out through the Center for Environmental Health Sciences.

Recently, the program was given an award from the Environmental Protection Agency to establish a regional hazardous substances research center. MIT will be one of five centers across the nation involved in a consortium, including a center at the New Jersey Institute of Technology and one at Tufts University.