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Faulty software fixed; air violations had been overreported

MIT has agreed to pay a $25,000 fine for alleged 1998 violations of the state Department of Environmental Protection's air quality regulations at the William R. Dickson Cogeneration Plant. Many of those alleged violations were actually the result of faulty MIT software that erroneously overreported instances where emissions exceeded legal limits.

"The software has been upgraded and the reporting problem remedied," said Jamie Lewis Keith, MIT's managing director for environmental programs and risk management and senior counsel.

Ms. Keith issued the following statement:

"As a result of a software malfunction in the emissions monitoring equipment at MIT's cogeneration plant, MIT mistakenly reported a large number of permit exceedances that did not, in fact, exist. This was in addition to a few minor actual exceedances that would not normally result in enforcement.

"We were able to demonstrate to the Commonwealth [of Massachusetts] that almost all of the reported instances were not in fact exceedances, and that there was no significant adverse impact to the environment.

"MIT's cogeneration plant conserves energy and significantly reduces air pollution. Due to the time it took us to determine the cause of the overreporting, however, the Commonwealth elected to pursue enforcement. The software has been upgraded and the reporting problem remedied. MIT worked cooperatively with the Commonwealth to resolve this matter, and we look forward to continuing this positive relationship in the future."

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on April 26, 2000.

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