Published: Feb 09, 2013 07:00 PM
Modified: Feb 09, 2013 05:22 PM
Our farm has adjoined UNCs animal research facility in Bingham Township for 18 years.
The facility was redesigned in 2006 according to a university master plan. The small-scale quarantine facility was to become a state-of-the-art animal research campus , more than a dozen buildings, and lodging for 500 large animals.
The impetus for the plan was no doubt hope of winning an NIH construction grant. In 2010 UNC received a $14.5 million NIH stimulus grant, but had to return the funds after a series of wastewater system failures were exposed and the NIH inquired about multiple violations and improperly built infrastructure that was not shovel-ready.
The UNC animal research facility is located on watershed land and wetlands in southwest Orange Countys agricultural and residential zone, an area without municipal water or sewer. The streams on the property flow from Collins Creek into the Haw River and wind up in Jordan Lakes drinking water supply.
As the facilitys immediate neighbor, I have watched UNC try to transform what was essentially a run-down kennel into a research facility without properly thinking out the basics needed for such a project water, sewer, fire protection, environmental oversight and security.
In the universitys haste to win the NIH grant, it has cost taxpayers significantly.
An incorrectly designed and installed waste water system had to be shut down requiring a redesigned new system after the former system illegally spilled waste in an Orange County stream for close to eight weeks in 2009.
Toxic solvents, improperly dumped by subcontractors at the site, contaminated the septic system as well requiring a costly hazardous waste clean-up. New very noisy chillers had to be replaced with quiet ones after neighbors vociferously complained, many small bulk LP propane tanks operated without state approval and improperly sited were replaced with two large tanks and sited without county site plan approval, and an incinerator used for UNC hospital waste was removed after neighbors alerted state officials to a fire resulting from its malfunction. Millions of dollars have been wasted as a result of lack of oversight by UNC.
And now, as if this careless waste of taxpayer money was not enough, the university has quietly bought out two of my neighbors two residential properties and a tract of raw land. What did this cost taxpayers? $800,000 plus whatever it will cost to demolish the homes, which according to the State of North Carolina Property Office, UNC intends to do. This is after we were informed by Bob Lowman that UNC did not have the funds to put in a water holding tank to be used for fire safety at the site.
And why did UNC buy out my neighbors? These properties do not appear on UNCs 2006 Master Plan. UNCs tTrustees and Board of Governors approved the campus expansion and used federal research grant funds to acquire the properties, but the university has not disclosed whether the added 20 acres will be used for research.
The UNC animal research facility has been operated out in rural Orange County without sufficient oversight. While there has been some transparency, most of it has been reactive and after the fact. Many of the facts are buried deep in UNC document storage.
So after observing these sequences of events I ask myself. How can all of these mistakes be made without repercussions?
UNC spokesman, Bob Lowman, invited readers in a recent commentary to Get Facts About Bingham. I am trying.