Hearing set on UNC research waste spraying

Preserve Rural Orange, which has been a major player in seeking to protect the environment and rural way of life in Orange County, is teaming up with the environmentalist group Haw River Assembly in beating the drum for public turnout at a public hearing tonight to speak out against UNC’s plans to spray 1.2 million gallons of research waste in the Haw River Watershed yearly, at a cost of $14.7 million.
The hearing will be at the White Cross Recreation Center, 1800 White Cross Road, Chapel Hill, and starts at 7 p.m., with registration at 6:30. The hearing is under the auspices of the N.C. Division of Water Quality, and Preserve Rural Orange is pushing for requiring regulators to obtain an environmental impact statement to determine impacts and alternatives to more research animal waste.
Protections are needed for clean water, public health and the environment, the groups say. The UNC animal research lab has been identified as a concern and an irritant to those living in its vicinity. It has had a series of mishaps with failed waste systems and waste fluids leaking off site, and failure to notify landowners of the wastewater leaks, some of which have drawn state action such as revoking permits.
Below is a timeline that Preserve Rural Orange put out in a news release highlighting the research facility’s history and past environmental accidents:
What we know and don’t know about past and present operations at UNC’s Animal Research Facility:
Four decades of UNC research waste in the Haw River Watershed
1971: University of North Carolina buys 56.6 acres at 1907 Orange Chapel Clover Garden Road
UNC purchases “The Farm” from Anthony & Isabelle Jacobs in southwest Orange County agricultural residential zone
1972-2003: Unknown activities
The university builds and operates 6,616 square foot lab animal research facility (species unknown)
Facility houses unknown numbers of animals whose waste is discharged directly into Collins Creek for an undisclosed period

2004: Master Plan for UNC Research Campus
26,000 rodents
13 buildings 
56,350 square feet (5 pig enclosures: 24,000 s.f.; 2 dog kennels: 10,000 s.f.; rodent facility: 11,000 s.f.; blood lab: 8,850 s.f; office: 1,500 s.f.; kennel & lab: 1,000 s.f.)
35 employees
49 parking spaces
No municipal water or sewer
2006: Environmental assessment prepared by UNC consultants
UNC: “No wetlands” on UNC facility property
UNC: “No impacts on surface waters” from proposed project
UNC: Neighbors of the facility are “widely scattered”

2007: Rural research campus construction: no public notice
New building; “Deemed permitted” wastewater system built without engineer certification
Neighbors learn of UNC plans by finding UNC surveyor’s tape on neighboring properties
2008: UNC Airport & UNC Animal Research Facility
NC Senate Bill 1925 empowers UNC to seize land for “airport & amusements” in Orange County, using public funds to serve primarily special interests
#1 Orange County site: 25 private properties adjoining UNC Animal Research Facility

2009: Wastewater lagoons & systems fail
120,960 gallons research waste in Collins Creek
1.6 million gallon failed lagoon
Multiple illegal wastewater discharges; neighbors are never notified, leaking wastewater is not sampled
PRO requests facility public records of operations; UNC asks for $5,000 advance fee to inspect (not copy) records

2010: Violations of federal, state & local regulations
DWQ revokes wastewater system permit
Toxic solvents contaminate septic system
UNC shuts down failed waste systems
UNC disclosure: waste spray fields & road are built on wetlands in violation of federal Clean Water Act
NIH inquires about infrastructure failures; UNC returns $14.5 million stimulus grant to NIH
UNC hires McKim & Creed consultants
UNC pledges transparency, compliance, communication of plans with neighbors & public, testing of neighbors’ wells (none has occurred)
Facility plans shift repeatedly: hundreds of dogs; small animals only; hogs and dogs on dry bedding; dogs and small animals
2011: UNC pursues wastewater system expansion wiithout public notice
UNC applies for erosion control permit, wastewater permit modification and stormwater permit
UNC fails to notify neighbors of DWQ permit applications
2012: New waste system for 10 employees: 1.2 million gallons “100% domestic” waste
UNC: 10 employees to generate 1.2 million gallons “domestic” waste per year
Dry bedding waste collection planned for all lab animals: dogs, rodents, other species (numbers undisclosed)
Soiled dry bedding volume, storage, disposal & fire risks: undisclosed
Waste spray field acreage to double to more than 5 acres, including open pasture along main road
Projected cost to remove failed system and install new system: $14.7 million
Source of funding: undisclosed

Preserve Rural Orange (PRO): http://preserveruralorange.org/

Dan E. Way / Associate Editor

Dan E. Way joined the staff of Carolina Journal in June 2012 after freelancing for CJ for nearly a year. Dan has extensive experience in daily journalism, editing The Chape...

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