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Deadline Today for UNC to Respond to Environmental Questions

Photo: Aerial view of UNC Animal Research Facility, Courtesy: Preserve Rural Orange
Photo: Aerial view of UNC Animal Research Facility, Courtesy: Preserve Rural Orange
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."

The state is also asking the university to make safety, monitoring and public notification improvements at the facility. An unaffiliated waste facility in Orange County is handling the animal and laboratory waste after environmental violations were discovered at the university's treatment facility three years ago. Documents filed with the state indicate UNC would like to begin handling waste generated on site again.

University officials did not respond to a request for comment on this story.

UNC has spent more than $800,000 in the past two years to acquire neighboring land, but the added acreage does not appear in the school's master plan for the site. Streitfeld said she is concerned about the school's ultimate plan for the site and feels it should be a matter of public record and that the university has violated federal and state laws.

"We're concerned that at every level the university has not been compliant and has not really been not only a good neighbor to the folks surrounding the facility, but really has not done right by the citizens of North Carolina," she said.

Preserve Rural Orange is concerned about the environmental and human health impact of what the university might be disposing of at the animal treatment facility.

Stephanie Carroll Carson/Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - NC