A Dream Realized: EHS Dedicates New Waste Facility to Former Colleague

March 4, 2024

Iain Kinsella (left), environmental affairs manager, and Kevin Charbonneau, EHS executive director, unveil a plaque dedicating the new waste facility at 470 Congress Avenue to former EHS colleague Brenda ArmstrongOver 100 people gathered in the large, open space at 470 Congress Avenue on February 23rd to celebrate the opening of a nearly 13,000-square-foot waste facility on campus. One more, the person who was most responsible for the dream becoming a reality, was there in spirit.

Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) staff joined representatives from various university departments to dedicate the new facility in honor of Brenda Armstrong, who began her career at Yale in 1994 and spent her last 12 years in the position of environmental affairs manager before she passed away from cancer in 2023.

Armstrong, in partnership with former EHS Director Pete Reinhardt, had been advocating for a new waste facility for over a decade. After feasibility studies, exploring multiple potential locations, and securing funding, the space at 470 Congress Avenue is now available to help environmental affairs staff process and store hazardous waste generated by the university.

Brenda Armstrong“Brenda was very persistent and when she felt that something needed to be done, she did not stop that pursuit,” Kevin Charbonneau, EHS executive director, said to the crowd gathered for the dedication ceremony. “She felt very strongly about her staff. This facility was created based on all of the work that she did in an effort to ensure their safety. She pursued this tenaciously and, as a result, we stand here in a facility that will not only create a space where our staff can work safely but is also going to be space that will allow us to properly and efficiently manage the waste that gets generated on this campus.”

The facility includes two new autoclaves and a shredder to replace the former units at 200 South Frontage Road. The autoclaves sterilize potentially infectious biomedical waste while the shredder renders it acceptable for waste disposal. The new machinery is designed with more automation and requires less of a manual process, which makes it safer for staff to process the waste.

The space will also hold 55-gallon drums of bulk chemical waste generated by the Yale School of Medicine as well as decay-in-storage radioactive waste, which is currently housed in a storage area at Wright Lab. That facility will eventually be demolished to make room for Yale’s new Physical Scientific and Engineering Building. Powered industrial trucks will now be available at 470 Congress Avenue resulting in safer movement of the 55-gallon drums within the facility. 

Iain Kinsella, environmental affairs manager, spoke to the group about Armstrong’s influence on the project and also thanked the many other groups which made this possible including the Office of the Provost, Yale School of Medicine, Facilities, Yale Project Management, the Yale Office of Sustainability, Yale Risk Management, members of the Biological Safety Committee, principal investigators from the Yale School of Medicine and Science Hill, University Properties, along with many EHS colleagues. That group includes Armstrong’s husband, Josh Armstrong, who has worked at EHS for 30 years including as a safety advisor for the past 25 years. He attended the ceremony with their sons, Jake and Ryan, along with Brenda Armstrong’s mother and sister.

“I think it’s a bit of closure for the people who worked with her,” Kinsella said. “For us, it feels like we finished something she started, and we are able to make it part of her legacy.”

“I feel Brenda is with us today and I think she is with us every day,” Charbonneau said. “I feel her presence all the time. I know that the work that is going to continue to happen in here is going to be overseen by her. If she were here today with us, she would be extremely proud of what has been accomplished.”