UNC ANIMAL RESEARCH FACILITY
Click on the link for a timeline of the
UNC Animal Research Facility's history of research waste in the watershed, violations, and wasteful spending of public funds
NC legislators to discuss
UNC Animal Research Facility environmental record
NC Environmental Review Commission Mtg.
Wednesday January 15, 2014 at 9:30 am
NC Legislative Office Building, Room #643
330 North Salisbury Street, Raleigh
The UNC Animal Research Facility is at the top of the agenda of the NC Environmental Review Commission (ERC) this week. Facility neighbor Cliff Leath and UNC Associate Vice Chancellor Bob Lowman will speak with state legislators Wednesday morning about the environmental record of the UNC facility in southwest Orange County. PRO will be there as Cliff shares concerns about the university's waste spills and violations, expansion plans, accountability and impacts of four decades of research waste on the watershed and surrounding community.
Despite mounting expenses of infrastructure failures at this improperly located facility, UNC is pursuing costly expansion plans without examining impacts of its lab animal waste on the Haw River watershed.
- Amount UNC spent in 2010 and 2012 buying neighboring residential properties, expanding the facility footprint from 57 to 80 acres: $813,500
- Amount UNC allocated to test impacts of research waste on neighbors' wells, the facility's original well, sites where spills occurred, and the capacity of the aquifer: $0
Join PRO at Wednesday's public meeting in Raleigh! Community presence strengthens PRO's efforts to increase scrutiny and oversight of UNC research waste in our watershed. For a list of legislators on the commission, visit the ERC web page.
County commissioners & neighbors invited to visit UNC facility Jan. 16th & 17th
Orange County commissioners and neighbors are invited to visit the UNC Animal Research Facility this Thursday and Friday January 16th and 17th at 3:30 pm. This is a chance to see the property and talk with university and county leaders. To attend one of the tours, please contact PRO at: email@example.com
DWQ issues draft wastewater permit, imposes 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 community members, the new draft permit includes more stringent conditions requiring increased monitoring, water testing, reporting, public notification, and safeguards in the wastewater system.
UNC responds to DWQ DENR, doesn't include new 20 acres in Bingham Facility footprint
UNC response to DWQ/DENR 1/31/13
UNC specs for DWQ/DWQ 1/31/13
UNC drawings for DWQ/DWQ 1/31/13
UNC design manual for DWQ/DWQ 1/31/13
click on the link for the news story, audio & map:
January 31, 2013
Stephanie Carroll Carson/Mary Kuhlman
Public News Service - NC
January 31, 2013
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - Today is
the deadline for the University of North Carolina to respond to a
request from the state's Division of Water Quality to disclose
pollutants and chemicals being disposed of from the school's animal
research facility in southwest Orange County.
Laura Streitfeld, spokeswoman for the environmental watch group Preserve
Rural Orange, is concerned about the operation of the facility.
"The bigger concern," she said, "is how this facility can ever operate
in compliance and safely when it's sited on wetlands that were never
disclosed, when it's sited along a creek that leads to drinking water." [click to read more]
UNC requests extension to respond to DWQ requirements
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, Raleigh, NC--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.
Before deciding whether to issue a permit, DWQ sent a letter to UNC Vice Chancellor Karol Kain Gray requesting a response by January 5, 2013 on items including:
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.
- Disclosing pollutants, chemicals used on site, and annual water use
- Sampling & analyzing wastewater
- Reducing proposed water use
- Installing groundwater monitoring wells along boundary with neighboring residences to detect contaminants
- Monitoring all surface waters on site upstream and downstream for contaminants
- Instituting safety and emergency notification procedures
- Increasing setbacks from bus stops
Our deepest thanks to the dozens of citizens who attended the public hearing and sent detailed concerns to state regulators. Your well-informed comments and requests for improved oversight of the UNC Animal Research Facility have
resulted in increased scrutiny of the University's operations and plans.
calling attention to impacts of the UNC's facility expansion plans on the
environment and public health, we hold our state university accountable for its failure to uphold the public interest.
PRESERVE 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 map for larger image
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 information - click on link to read full press release]
Sept 4th deadline:
Send a message to DWQ
*Sample message below
Urge state regulators at the
NC Division of Water Quality to:
Deny UNC's wastewater permit
Recommend requiring an Environmental Impact Statement
Click on the link to send a message
to Nathaniel Thornburg
(with a copy to PRO
if you like) at the NC Division of Water Quality or by U.S. mail postmarked by September 4th
- sample message below
Division of Water Quality
Aquifer Protection Section
1636 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, NC 27699-1636
I'm writing to urge you to deny the UNC Animal Research Facility's wastewater permit modification, Permit No. WQ0023896.
constructed a faulty wastewater system after submitting an inaccurate
and incomplete Environmental Assessment in 2006. The university has not
yet disclosed the impacts on wetlands, creeks, and groundwater of
multiple illegal wastewater discharges in 2009 and 2010 that led to a
shut-down of the system.
issuing any permits for this facility, please recommend requiring UNC
to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement to hold UNC accountable for
detailed information on the consequences of multiple illegal
discharges, equipment failures and violations at the facility including a
road and wastewater spray fields built on undisclosed wetlands. An EIS
would also ensure that UNC explores alternatives to the proposed
project in order to minimize environmental impacts on the Haw River
PUBLIC HEARING Aug 22: STATE PROBES UNC'S PLAN TO SPRAY 1.2 MILLION GALLONS OF RESEARCH WASTE PER YEAR ON WATERSHED LAND
(registration begins at 6:30)
White Cross Recreation Center
1800 White Cross Road, Chapel Hill, NC
County, NC, August 13, 2012--On Wednesday August 22nd citizens will have a
chance to share concerns with state regulators from the NC Division of Water
Quality (DWQ) about the University of North Carolina's application for a permit
modification to expand its failed wastewater system at the 56-acre UNC Animal
Research Facility at 1907 Orange Chapel Clover Garden Road in southwest Orange
County. The university proposes to spray 1.2 million gallons of research
waste per year on Haw River Watershed land, doubling the acreage of spray
fields and spraying research waste onto open fields next to neighboring
pastures where cattle graze. The DWQ has scheduled a public hearing at the White Cross
Recreation Center to receive public comments before deciding
"whether to issue, revise or deny the draft permit modification."
The hearing will be the first opportunity for community members to comment
publicly on a permit application in the facility's four decades of operations.
2010, Preserve Rural Orange (PRO) exposed a series
of animal wastewater spills and equipment failures and violations of county,
state and federal regulations at the UNC facility. University leaders
returned a $14.5 million construction grant to the NIH after acknowledging
undisclosed wetlands and improperly built infrastructure on site, and committed
to sharing plans and permit documents with PRO and neighbors as well as testing
neighbors' well water. Now, UNC leaders propose spending an additional
$14.7 million to expand the failed wastewater system and have ceased
communications with PRO and neighbors. More than two years after multiple
illegal wastewater spills and toxic solvents contaminating the wastewater, UNC
has not yet developed protocols for testing neighboring wells.
the August 22nd public hearing, neighbors and PRO leaders plan to request an
Environmental Impact Statement, requiring UNC to disclose past and future
impacts and to explore environmentally responsible, sustainable alternatives to
the proposed expansion. In locations where where tens of thousands of
gallons of research and animal waste spilled onto the ground and into tributaries
of Collins Creek, there were no studies to determine impacts on soil, sediment
or water. Collins Creek feeds into the Haw River, winding up in Jordan
Lake's regional drinking water supply. Downstream from the UNC property,
the EPA has listed Collins Creek as "impaired waters."
has operated the research facility for four decades, and according to a 2009
UNC handout to neighbors, the facility initially discharged waste directly into
the creek for an undisclosed period of time. Five years ago, UNC
constructed new wastewater spray fields and a road on wetlands, in violation of
the federal Clean Water Act. The facility property is located in the
southwest corner of Orange County, a rural and agricultural zone far from water
or sewer service. Without municipal infrastructure to support a research
campus, the UNC Animal Research Facility's costs are mounting. Since 2010
when failed wastewater systems were shut down, UNC has pumped and hauled
research waste from the facility twice weekly to OWASA, paying both tanker
truck and disposal fees, and contracting with consultant McKim & Creed to
redesign and replace the unused, faulty system that cost millions to install
five years ago.
DWQ Public Hearing will take place on Wednesday August 22nd at 7 pm, with
registration beginning at 6:30 pm. The White Cross Recreation Center is
located at 1800 White Cross Road, Chapel Hill. For more information
contact Nathaniel Thornburg, DWQ Aquifer Protection Section (firstname.lastname@example.org) at (919) 807-6453, and Preserve Rural Orange (email@example.com).
UNC's permit application may be sent until September 4th to Nathaniel
Thornburg, Division of Water Quality, Aquifer Protection Section, 1636 Mail
Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-1636.
CITIZENS APPEAL COUNTY APPROVAL OF UNC ANIMAL RESEARCH FACILITY SITE PLAN
Orange County, NC March 5, 2012—Last week, Bingham Township resident Walt Lobotsky submitted an appeal to the Orange County Board of Adjustment, co-signed by the citizen nonprofit Preserve Rural Orange (PRO). Lobotsky and PRO are appealing the Planning Department’s February 1, 2012 approval of a site plan for the University of North Carolina’s Animal Research Facility. Lobotsky’s property is adjacent to the 56-acre UNC property in southwest Orange County where a new wastewater system and expanded spray fields are planned to replace an improperly built system that was shut down after series of illegal animal wastewater spills and equipment failures occurred in 2009 and 2010. In the appeal, Lobotsky and PRO maintain that Orange County ordinances require the UNC facility to apply for a Special Use Permit because its wastewater system is designed to handle a capacity greater than 3,000 gallons per day.
Lobotsky and PRO are asking the Board of Adjustment to uphold county Planning staff’s April 2010 determination requiring UNC to apply for a Class A Special Use Permit, a public process in which citizens may comment on proposed developments in hearings held by the Planning Board and Board of County Commissioners (BOCC). County Planning staff later reversed the determination in November of 2010 in response to communications from University attorneys and officials, and allowed UNC to submit a site plan which does not require public notice, hearings or BOCC approval. [Click here to read more]
September 28, 2011
Despite UNC administrators’ stated commitment to notify neighbors and PRO of all communications with 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 DWQ on August 16, 2011, to rebuild and expand failed wastewater systems at the UNC Research Facility in Bingham Township .
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- we'll notify PRO subscribers as soon they are online.
News Update - February 6, 2010
UNC wastewater system status revoked
this week Preserve Rural Orange sent a request to Dee Freeman,
Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural
Resources (DENR), co-signed by the Haw River Assembly, Clean Water
for North Carolina and the Sewage Sludge Action Network chapter of the
Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League. Haw River Assembly Executive
Director and River Keeper Elaine Chiosso also sent a separate letter
supporting our request.
We asked for an investigation of the illegal wastewater discharge
and series of equipment malfunctions at the UNC Research Resource
Facility in 2009 and 2010, and asked DENR to revoke the animal wastewater system’s “deemed permitted” status, requiring UNC to apply for a permit.
heard back from Secretary Freeman that an investigation and inspection
of the site are under way, and that the deemed permitted status has
been revoked [5.3 MB file]. UNC has 30 days to apply for a permit. Coleen
Sullins, Director of DENR’s Division of Water Quality (DWQ) also sent a notice of intent to UNC at the end of the week to alert university officials that
the state is considering an enforcement action because of the nearly
two-month delay in addressing and reporting the wastewater leak that
flowed into Collins Creek.
Recent news articles:
State looks into leak from UNC pond,
Mark Schultz, News & Observer, February 6, 2010
Group asks UNC to fix animal waste lagoons,
Tristan Long, The Herald-Sun, January 31, 2010
UNC says it didn't hide leak: Wastewater reached creek,
Mark Schultz, Chapel Hill News, January 31, 2010
State may require UNC's Bingham Facility to get a permit,
Mark Schultz, News & Observer, January 29, 2010
PRO: More Oversight of UNC's Research Farm, Elizabeth Friend, WCHL 1360 AM, January 27, 2010
leak went unfixed, Mark Schultz, Chapel Hill News, January 27, 2010
must come clean: Pollution from University research facility must stop;
transparency and accountability are necessary, DTH Editorial Board, Daily Tar Heel, January 24, 2010
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, 2010
UNC warned after leak Mark Schultz, News and Observer, January 21, 2010
UNC Research Facility Expansion in the News
The November 11, 2009 Independent Weekly features an 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. The article raises questions about the lab animal facility's
operations, its impacts on neighbors and the environment and
the status of our public records request which is largely unfulfilled five months after it was submitted to the university.
In June 2009 we submitted a public records request about the facility to UNC to learn more about expansion plans and past, present and future activities. We also asked for the same records on UNC's Francis Owen Blood Research Lab which is planned to move from its current location in the University Lake watershed to the Bingham Township facility in the Haw River watershed, along a tributary of Collins Creek.
Five months later, there are still more questions than answers. After nearly three months of delays, the response to our request from UNC's Office of General Counsel was that we would need to pay $1,000 in advance and sign an agreement to pay up to $5,000 in additional costs to receive copies of records going back only five years (note: expansion plans were developed at least seven years ago). When we modified the request and asked to look at records first before copying, the response was that we would have to pay the same $1000 and sign the same agreement, just to inspect the records.
While we do not plan to pay to inspect state university records that belong to the public, we are pursuing our request for access to these records on issues of concern to immediate neighbors and the surrounding community. We hold UNC accountable for providing records before construction is complete and new operations begin.
Neighbors have legitimate concerns about environmental and human health impacts of air and water-borne toxins, pathogens and pharmaceuticals resulting from incineration and wastewater spraying, and impacts on wells, the aquifer and the regional water supply. Instead of creating obstacles for citizens seeking answers while moving ahead with construction, we believe the university should share our concerns, communicate with Orange County officials and citizens, and immediately provide records of its activities. Only with full, ongoing and timely disclosure of relevant information will we be assured that every possible precaution will be taken to protect the community from irreparable harm.
We will keep you informed as we learn more, and continue to post documents from the state, county
and university in the right hand column of this page.
UNC LAB ANIMAL FACILITY
RESEARCH RESOURCE FACILITY
in Bingham Township
members, along with Preserve Rural Orange researchers are gathering information on the $27 million
expansion of UNC’s animal research facility, the Research Resource
Facility (also called “The Farm”) at 1907 Orange Chapel Clover Garden
Phase III funding of $8.6 million for the facility was approved in the
same July 2008 NC Senate Bill 1925 that created the airport authority.
The approximately 50 acre property sits directly adjacent to the
southwest end of the Site H airport map. The university has owned and run the
facility for decades to raise lab animals for research. There are
already dogs on site and there will be pigs and rodents as well in the new
There is a new animal waste lagoon, with plans to treat up
to 10,000 gallons of waste per day and spray with 800 spray heads into
the woods above a tributary which runs into Collins Creek. There is
also a human waste lagoon which has been expanded and an incinerator
with a record of emissions including mercury and propylene oxide. The
facility is planning to use 1000 gallons per day of well water.
We are contacting federal, state, county and university officials as well as
environmental groups to learn more about the facility, and to raise
awareness of its current and potential impact which most of us were
unaware of until now. If you have any additional information or would
like to join in our efforts, contact us at:
(from FPC UNC web page listed below)
has a master plan for the development of the Research Resource
Facility, which will accommodate several species of animals in multiple
buildings. The site for the facility is located in Orange County and
site plan approval from the county has been obtained. The University
now wants to implement the master plan in phases. Coordinate the
development of site infrastructure elements such as water supply and
sewage disposal, fencing, security and roads, as well as roughly a
dozen buildings planned to be constructed in a number of phases."
(From UNC Facilities Planning and Construction on the Research Resource Facility Waste and Waste Water)