DWQ issues draft wastewater permit for UNC facility with conditions
On March 11, 2013, the NC Division of Water Quality issued a draft wastewater permit for the UNC Animal Research Facility. Thanks to input from more than
fifty concerned community members, the new draft permit includes more stringent
conditions requiring increased monitoring, water testing, reporting,
public notification, and safeguards in the wastewater system.
For more information, click on the link to the UNC Animal Research Facility page.
A seminar for environmental leaders & advocates:
Tuesday, March 5, 2013:
Maps, Images & Video: from Data to Action
images courtesy Tim Stallmann
Rhodes Conference Room, Sanford School of Public Policy
Duke University, 302 Towerview Drive, Durham, NC
8:30 am Sign-in and introductions
- 11:15 am Presentations
Social Equity and Environmental Risk11:30 am Discussion & Assignment
Allan Parnell, Demographer & VP, Cedar Grove Institute for Sustainable Communities
Putting a Face on Your Data
Ana Duncan Pardo, Communications Coordinator, Toxic Free North Carolina
Community Mapping -- Techniques for sharing data and building power
Tim Stallmann, Freelance Cartographer & GIS Analyst; member of 3C's - the Counter-Cartographies Collective
ASSIGNMENT: Investigate your community's major industrial polluters and their political influence
Enter registration code: ecoadv
Click here to read about our speakers
UNC requests extension to respond to DWQ requirements
January 2013- UNC has received an extension until January 31, 2013 to respond to the NC Division of Water Quality's hearing officer's report. The report and accompanying letter from state regulators require UNC to disclose pollutants and water use, analyze wastewater, improve safety, monitoring and public notification, and reduce proposed water use at the UNC Animal Research Facility in southwest Orange County. Click on the link to view a video of the August 22, 2012 public hearing attended by 100+ concerned citizens at the White Cross Recreation Center.
NC DWQ to UNC Animal Research Facility:
Disclose pollutants and annual water use; analyze wastewater; improve
safety, monitoring and public notification; reduce proposed water use.
December 6, 2012--The North Carolina Division of Water Quality (DWQ) has issued the hearing officer's report (large file) for the August 22, 2012 hearing on a wastewater permit application for UNC 's Animal Research Facility in rural Orange County. Click on the link to for a video of the August 2012 DWQ public hearing.
Click on links to read the DWQ hearing officer's report (large 37 MB file) and the letter from NC DWQ to UNC Vice Chancellor Karol Kain Gray.
Before deciding whether to issue a permit, DWQ sent a letter to UNC Vice Chancellor Gray requesting a response by January 5, 2013. For more details and links to public documents, go to the UNC Animal Research Facility web page.
PRO Tree Planting at Maple View Farm Agricultural Center
Beginning in the fall of 2012, Preserve Rural Orange (PRO) is offering EcoAdvocate seminars,
a series of professional training sessions for North Carolina
Triangle-area advocates. This pilot project will advance environmental
protection efforts by offering advocates a unique set of skills to
create compelling campaigns and convey key information to the media, decision-makers and citizens on complex issues, policies and decisions.
The seminar series
is offered free of charge, funded by a grant from the
Led by panels of editors, journalists, lawyers, environmental leaders,
communications experts and cartographers, participants will learn how to
conduct investigations, access public records and build powerful,
effective campaigns that provide media and stakeholders with pertinent
information in time to make a difference, facilitating citizen
involvement in issues and pending decisions.
Thursday, November 29, 2012:
Investigative Reporting seminar
For more information, visit the EcoAdvocate website or send email to: email@example.com
Lisa Sorg, Editor, Independent Weekly
Sue Sturgis, Editorial Director, Institute for Southern Studies
Ryan Thornburg, Assistant Professor, UNC School of Journalism and Mass Communication
RURAL ORANGE ASKS NC ATTORNEY GENERAL & STATE AUDITOR TO
INVESTIGATE UNC ACQUIRING RURAL PROPERTIES WHILE PUBLIC APPEALS TO
COUNTY AND STATE OFFICIALS WERE STILL PENDING
Click on links for news release and map. For more information go to UNC Animal Research Facility web page
Orange County, NC, September 24, 2012—The citizen nonprofit Preserve Rural Orange (PRO) has asked North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper and State Auditor Beth Wood to investigate recent acquisitions of rural property by the University of North Carolina’s Animal Research Facility in Bingham Township.
Earlier this month UNC Vice Chancellor Bob Lowman sent an email message to PRO and facility neighbors announcing that UNC had acquired an 8.32-acre property on Maynard Farm Road and planned to acquire an additional 10.56 acres. University officials first requested the acquisition on April 18, 2012 and closed on the property on September 6, 2012 without disclosing to the State Property Office that appeals made by the seller to the Orange County Board of Adjustment (BOA) and North Carolina Division of Water Quality (DWQ) were pending. [more]
PUBLIC HEARING: NC DIVISION OF WATER QUALITY
Wednesday August 22nd, 7:00 pm (register at 6:30)
White Cross Recreation Center
1800 White Cross Road, Chapel Hill, NC
For more information, visit the Meetings and Events page or contact PRO at: firstname.lastname@example.org
On Saturday December 17th, 2011 Preserve Rural Orange members were joined by Bob Nutter of Maple View Farm, Orange County Commissioner Steve Yuhasz and visitors for a tree planting ceremony at Maple View Farm’s Agricultural Educational Center on Dairyland Road. PRO's Tree of Wishes was conceived of by local artist Sarah Cornette, inspired by Yoko Ono's Imagine Peace/Wish Tree Project. Bob Nutter and Allison Nichols of Maple View Farm lent support to the project, generously providing a permanent site to plant and care for the tree.
Contact the Maple View Ag Center and arrange a time to add your hopes and dreams for Orange County’s future to the Tree of Wishes, a maple tree now planted at the Ag Center for visitors and students to enjoy.
CELEBRATING 3 YEARS OF SUCCESSFUL OUTCOMES
Growing out of a grassroots community response to potential plans for a university airport on rural land in 2008, volunteer organizers established Preserve Rural Orange (PRO) as a nonprofit in 2009.
PRO conducts thorough research, tracking changing issues, identifying environmental and economic impacts of proposed developments, raising public awareness and urging sustainable, cost-effective alternatives to plans that would
affect watershed land, woodlands and farms in Orange County, North Carolina.
Run entirely by volunteers on a very modest budget, in three years PRO has brought together hundreds of citizens to lead three highly effective public campaigns:
UNC Airport (2008-2011)
Grassroots campaign leads to University of North Carolina Chancellor Thorp canceling plans in 2009 to build a publicly funded airport that would serve primarily special interests on watershed & agricultural land; UNC airport authority legislation is repealed by NC General Assembly in 2011
Waste Transfer Station (2009)
Public pressure deters Orange County from building a waste transfer station on large, costly wetland property, urging county to seek sustainable alternatives
UNC Animal Research Facility (2010)
PRO exposes a series of animal wastewater spills, equipment failures, noncompliance and violations of county, state and federal regulations, leading to UNC returning $14.5 million in NIH stimulus funds, canceling large-scale expansion plans, acknowledging undisclosed wetlands on site, and improving UNC communications with neighbors
Preserve Rural Orange has rapidly become a valued resource for citizens, businesses, nonprofits and government leaders. The organization posts news updates with vital information to over 500 subscribers and thousands of website visitors, and PRO’s leadership is frequently consulted by community activists seeking strategies for organizing.
PRO has been influential in engaging thousands of Orange County citizens, offering proactive, timely information on upcoming decisions and plans. The group’s strength has been in promoting constructive dialogue and offering opportunities for meaningful input into issues affecting the rural environment and public health.
Thank you from the Preserve Rural Orange Board of Directors
September 28, 2011
UNC Research Facility plans proceed without notice to neighbors
Despite UNC administrators’ stated commitment to notify neighbors and PRO of all communications with the NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and to post public documents on UNC’s Bingham Facility web page, neither neighbors nor PRO were notified when UNC submitted a permit modification application to the DENR Division of Water Quality for its wastewater systems on August 16, 2011. UNC's Bingham web page has not been updated since 2010. To make this information publicly available, PRO will scan and post UNC's application documents on the PRO website- hundreds of pages of designs, specifications and maps.
Items of concern- UNC's wastewater proposal:
- Wastewater spray fields in open field on main road facing homes, livestock and school bus stop
- New higher acreage footprint for spray fields out of proportion to proposed water use
- Size, location and proximity of wastewater lagoons to wetlands and Collins Creek
and future impacts of wastewater and contaminants on soil, wetlands,
Collins Creek, watershed, and neighboring wells are untested and unknown
- Storage and disposal of dry bedding for lab animals, including rodents and potentially dogs and swine
- Truck traffic for waste removal
- Relocation of new propane tanks above Collins Creek
- No water storage on site for fire protection
- Infrastructure for possible future expansion
In mid-September PRO learned of the university’s August application to DWQ for a major modification to their non-discharge wastewater permit for the UNC Research Facility, as well as of a site plan UNC is developing to submit to the Orange County Planning Department for approval. PRO only became aware of these actions after contacting the state and county directly. Two days ago UNC Associate Vice Chancellor Bob Lowman disclosed that two additional DENR applications for stormwater management and erosion control permits were also recently submitted and approved without UNC notifying PRO or neighbors.
This week PRO Board Chair Laura Streitfeld and Vice Chair Tom Schopler met with Bob Lowman at UNC for an update on new plans to expand the wastewater system and spray fields at the UNC Research Facility. At PRO’s invitation, Orange County Planning Director Craig Benedict and County Commissioner Steve Yuhasz also attended, offering useful clarifications and suggesting ways UNC could be more responsive to requests for proactive communication and disclosure by county residents. Bob Lowman scheduled the meeting in response to PRO’s inquiry about undisclosed plans for new infrastructure at the UNC facility. UNC is now planning to hold a community meeting in October for another update on facility plans.
It is both disappointing and troubling to learn that UNC moved ahead seeking permits and bids for new infrastructure without notifying the community, and before rectifying ongoing issues resulting from the series of illegal wastewater discharges, equipment failures, and violations on UNC’s watershed land that began in October 2009. While university administrators agreed to test neighbors’ well water and to test the impact of water draws on neighboring wells, almost two years later testing protocols have not yet been developed.
Preserve Rural Orange - Highlights of 2010
At the end of another eventful year, we would like to thank everyone who supports Preserve Rural Orange
with contributions, resources, valued input and expertise. We
appreciate all that we have been able to accomplish throughout our
second year as an organization run entirely by volunteers with the
mission of protecting watershed land, woodlands and farms for
generations to come.
Some highlights of 2010:
PRO research and persistent communications with UNC leaders result in meetings throughout the year
to discuss previously undisclosed operations, wastewater spills,
malfunctions and expansion plans at UNC's Research Resource Facility in
leadership and resources are assigned by UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp to
assess damage and clean up animal research facility operations, following a series of wastewater leaks and public pressure for more responsible stewardship of the 56-acre UNC property.
Neighbors, county officials and media are invited to tour UNC animal research facility property for the first time.
PRO connects with regional environmental organizations- Haw
River Assembly and Clean Water for North Carolina- to request improved
oversight of UNC facility's wastewater systems by the NC Division of
Under public pressure, UNC shuts down failing and improperly built equipment at UNC research facility: wastewater
systems cease operations when dozens of leaks are identified in lagoon
liners; toxic solvents are cleaned out of the septic system; an aging
incinerator used for campus medical waste is decommissioned and removed
from the site.
UNC returns $14.5 million in stimulus funds to the NIH and scales back expansion plans when
it becomes clear that the research facility is not shovel ready due to
failing infrastructure and mounting costs of addressing environmental
PRO initiates key meetings with
Orange County Commission for the Environment; NC Division of Water
Quality Director Coleen Sullins and staff; US Congressman David Price;
UNC Trustee and Buildings & Grounds Committee Chair Phillip Clay;
and White Cross Fire Department Fire Chief Jerry Lloyd and leadership
with UNC Campus Fire Marshal Billy Mitchell and UNC administrators.
UNC Associate Vice Chancellor Bob Lowman commits to meeting twice monthly to update neighbors and solicit feedback on changing facility plans.
PRO joins Clean Water Coalition of Orange County opposing damaging impacts of logging, clearcuts and herbicide applications proposed in OWASA's draft Forestry Management Plan.
Excellent media coverage of environmental and public health issues threatening rural Orange County including
multiple wastewater spills, chemical contamination, violations and
changing plans at the UNC animal research facility, impacts of sewage
sludge spread on rural properties, and OWASA's forestry plan calling for
logging, clearcuts and herbicides on public watershed land.
This year we experienced our community's growing strength and
leadership as informed, engaged citizens once again brought about
greater accountability and transparency through public campaigns focused
on protecting our environment and public health. Looking ahead,
Preserve Rural Orange is embarking on a fundraising campaign in 2011 to
sustain and expand research, outreach and communications capabilities.
Please contact us at email@example.com
you would like to make a donation.
With your support, we look forward to providing more opportunities for
meaningful and timely participation in decisions affecting rural Orange
Best wishes for the new year,
Chair, Preserve Rural Orange Board of Directors
News Update--January 23, 2010
UNC Research Facility
Wastewater Spill in Collins Creek
Over the past week we have learned increasingly alarming details about
animal wastewater spilling into Collins Creek from a 1.6 million gallon
storage lagoon at the UNC Research Resource Facility in Bingham
Township. Despite community members’ requests over the past several
years for meetings, public records and proactive communication about
facility safety and expansion plans, UNC representatives have responded
with delayed communications, misrepresentations and only partial
information long after incidents occurred.
Since October 2009, equipment at the facility has repeatedly failed:
there was an incinerator fire and malfunction, an ongoing animal
wastewater lagoon liner leak reported in December that spilled into
Collins Creek in unknown volumes, a 630-gallon wastewater leak in
November from pipes that were never bolted together, and a leak last
week due to cracked valves (see DENR documents and photos of leaking wastewater).
are concerned about UNC’s lack of transparency and accountability, delay in reporting an illegal discharge
to state authorities (see UNC correspondence), failure
to alert neighbors who have repeatedly expressed concern precisely
about these hazards, and construction and use of faulty equipment
without a permit. These actions endanger public health and the
watershed, and result in costly repairs.
Earlier this week Preserve Rural Orange sent a Proposal to UNC
administrators, with copies to Orange County commissioners and staff,
outlining a series of steps to improve communications, transparency and
protection of environmental and human health with regard to current
operations and the $27 million expansion underway at the site.
week the animal wastewater system was shut down to drain about 400,000
gallons from the lagoon and haul it offsite to OWASA, in order to find
and repair the liner leak. UNC will pay OWASA more than $2,000 for
handling the wastewater, and according to NC Department of Environment
and Natural Resources (DENR) estimates, hauling more than fifty
truckloads of wastewater could cost UNC up to $30,000.
Click here for the full update on the UNC wastewater spill
What you can do:
Please join us in contacting UNC-CH Chancellor Holden Thorp,
asking university leaders to engage in the public process suggested in our Proposal to UNC, and to take the following additional measures:
animal wastewater lagoon operations at the UNC Research Resource
Facility until DENR concludes its investigation of the illegal
discharge into Collins Creek, determines the system’s compliance and permit status, and confirms the safety of continued use
- Apply for a permit for the animal wastewater treatment and disposal system to ensure oversight and safeguards at the facility
- Provide neighbors, PRO and county officials with timely copies of communications and reports about this and future incidents
UNC's wastewater worries Lisa Sorg, Independent Weekly, January 20, 2010For more information and background, visit the UNC Research Facility page of this website.
UNC warned after leak Mark Schultz, News and Observer, January 21, 2010
January 12, 2010
It’s been an amazing year in rural Orange County, with good news at both beginning and end. A year ago we were getting ready to open the “No Airport” photo exhibit on January 9th when UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp announced that the university would not convene an airport authority or pursue a new airport in Orange County as planned, but would relocate flights to RDU. Afterward we turned our attention to the county’s plans to build a waste transfer station site on Highway 54. Eleven months later on December 7th, Orange County Commissioners decided not to build a new transfer station and instead send chose to trash to an existing facility in Durham and allow time to explore alternatives.
When we first began talking about how to stop UNC’s plans to build an airport over a year ago, our discussion centered on how we would raise enough money to hire a lawyer. A friend and environmental attorney counseled us to build our community first, and this turned out to be the best advice. Fortunately we never had to hire a lawyer at all, and at every step of the way when we looked for help, we found what we needed close to home.
Even as we collectively researched, raised legitimate concerns and came together to oppose plans that would have transformed the rural landscape, none of us could have imagined how much we would accomplish in such a short time. And none of it would have been possible without our uniquely resourceful community....[read more]
ORANGE COUNTY TO USE DURHAM TRANSFER STATION
Bingham Township and Millhouse Road communities are spared
December 7, 2009--Orange County Manager Frank Clifton recommended, and county commissioners voted tonight to formalize an arrangement to send solid waste to the City of Durham's Transfer Station for 3 to 5 years, and to consider waste-disposal options including regional solutions and other possible collaborations. The meeting was packed with county residents, and after the county manager's recommendation there were many impassioned public comments mostly in opposition to the other two options, the Paydarfar site off Millhouse Road and the Howell property on Highway 54 in Bingham Township. Before commissioners made their decision, BOCC Chair Valerie Foushee expressed gratitude to citizens for input throughout the site selection process.
Commissioner Barry Jacobs made the following motion:
Mike Nelson added a friendly amendment to exclude sites in the Rogers/Eubanks/Millhouse community from future consideration. The motion passed 6-1 with Steve Yuhasz voting against it. He commented that he didn't want to take anything off the table.
- Proceed with an agreement with assurances about reducing waste and promoting recycling
- Amend the current inter-local agreement and get the best possible rate for the county and towns
- Re-engage towns
- Direct county staff and solid waste advisory board to engage in a public process to seek cost-effective alternatives, with a framework beginning no sooner than September 2010
- No additional funds will be spent on consultants unless county commissioners direct staff to do so
For more than a year our community has done an excellent job staying informed and engaged in this issue, which came directly on the heels of the proposed UNC airport last year. Thank you to community members and supporters, and to local churches and businesses who continue to help spread the word about meetings and news affecting rural residents. Thanks to all of your efforts our watershed land, farms and woodlands will be spared for now from becoming an industrial corridor. More to come on protecting Bingham Township from damaging development in the future.
I'd also like to acknowledge Orange County staff and officials who throughout the past year shared their expertise, responded thoughtfully to our questions and comments, and fulfilled requests for public documents promptly. While the issue of how Orange County will dispose of its waste long-term is not resolved, tonight's decision sets us on a more sustainable and positive course for Bingham Township and for the county at large.
UNC Research Facility Expansion in the News
The November 11, 2009 Independent Weekly features the article, "UNC research facility flies under the radar: What are they building in there?"
following an investigation by editor Lisa Sorg into UNC-Chapel Hill's
plans for a $27 million expansion of the UNC Research Resource Facility
in Bingham Township. To learn more about the lab animal facility's
operations, its impacts on neighbors and the environment and the
status of our public records request submitted to the university, visit
the UNC Research Facility page of this website.
Please join community members opposing a waste transfer station in Bingham Township
Questions remain about the Highway 54 site:
In our May 14, 2009 letter to Orange County Commissioners there is a detailed list of significant information that has not yet been disclosed regarding the Highway 54 site.
• Costs to county and towns
• Environmental impacts
• Driving routes & disposal location
• Future plans for proposed site
• Consultant’s conflict of interest
Please continue to contact county commissioners, Orange County Planning Director Craig Benedict and Solid Waste Director Gayle Wilson with questions and concerns regarding the potential siting of a waste transfer station in Bingham Township.
Preserve Rural Orange opposes a waste transfer station in Bingham Township that would irrevocably transform a rural and agricultural community into an industrial zone. Given environmental impacts and costs to taxpayers, county and towns, Bingham Township sites should be removed from consideration for a transfer station. The following should be considered in siting a transfer station: costs; interstate & rail access; proximity to the source of waste generation; location in industrial or commercial zone; and water and sewer services. We will continue to urge the county to identify sustainable waste disposal solutions.
Waste Transfer Station
documents detailing the progress of Orange County's proposed transfer
station sites on Highway 54 West in Bingham Township, go to the Waste Transfer Station page of our website.
Please also look at notices of upcoming meetings on our Meetings & Events page.
Spring 2009 Newsletter
We hope you will find useful information in this Preserve Rural Orange newsletter. Contents include a recap of accomplishments during our first six months, photos, opportunities for involvement, upcoming meetings, and a timeline of steps to be taken as we transition into a nonprofit organizational structure.
Steering Committee Nominations
Please submit your nominations for our expanding Steering Committee. Click here for a printable nomination form. Nominations may be sent to our mailing address below or by email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Preserve Rural Orange
Post Office Box 1314
Carrboro, NC 27510
Visit to the Greensboro Waste Transfer Station
Photos by Laura Streitfeld
Above left: Trash being dumped inside the transfer station. Above right: Commissioner Steve Yuhasz and Greensboro Environmental Services Director Jeri Covington. In the background are trailers and petroleum tanks.
February 13, 2009
Laura Streitfeld - PRO Steering Committee
Yesterday morning I visited the City of
Greensboro’s Waste Transfer Station, on a trip planned for new Orange
County Commissioners. I rode in a van from Hillsborough with
commissioners Pam Hemminger, Bernadette Pelissier and Steve Yuhasz,
Orange County’s Solid Waste Director Gayle Wilson and Solid Waste
Planner Blair Pollock, and reporters from the News and Observer, WCHL
1360 AM, and a student reporter and camera person from UNC. When we
arrived at the station we were joined by Bonnie Hauser and Susan Walser
of Orange County Voice and Forrest Covington, who is working on a video
project with Bonnie Hauser. While at the site I took photos and video.
City of Greensboro Environmental Services Director Jeri
Covington talked with us and answered questions about the city’s
landfill and waste management history and the transfer station’s
financing, construction and operations, then took us for a tour inside
on the floor, where operations were slowed down for us to walk around.
Like the proposed Orange County station, the two-story Greensboro
station is entirely enclosed. Inside there was a thick dust in the air
that clouded some of my photos, stirred up by the wind blowing in and
by the constant motion of trucks and earthmoving equipment driving in
and out, dumping and pushing trash across the floor. The smell was not
as strong as I anticipated, but walking through the dusty interior I
did get a vivid picture of how traffic, noise and airborne particles
from an entire county’s waste would affect the ecosystem and watershed
in southwest Orange County.
In selecting a site, Jeri Covington noted that they looked for
property close to the interstate and near rail lines in an industrial
zone. As we saw on our drive in, the station is close to an I-40 exit
and and surrounded in all directions by petroleum tanks which Covington
called “tank fields.” When it was built in 2005, the Greensboro
facility’s cost of construction was $9 million, and the cost of the ten
acre property, which Covington said was too small, was over $800,000.
She described the station’s funding as a “hybrid,” explaining that they
receive funds from city taxes and from tipping fees for taking trash
from outside municipalities and companies. At the Greensboro station,
garbage is dropped from the upper floor into tractor-trailers below and
hauled to the Uwharrie Regional Landfill in Mt. Gilead, North Carolina.
The visit and the van ride were both informative. On the way
to Greensboro I spoke with Pam Hemminger, and learned about her
background, school board experience and new role as a commissioner.
Riding back, Gayle Wilson and Blair Pollock shared their expertise on a
broad array of waste management and recycling issues, answering Steve
Yuhasz’s and my questions. Wilson discussed the future of the county’s
collection centers on Bradshaw Quarry Road and Ferguson Road, one or
both of which could close if a collection center were built on the
Howell property near the proposed transfer station.
My purpose in visiting the station with the commissioners was
to bring back information that would be useful to county residents. At our upcoming
meeting on March 1st, PRO members and speakers will share more about
recent developments on waste transfer issue. Please feel free to
contact us with questions or comments at: email@example.com