The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Wednesday May 31st

Bad fences, bad neighbors: Research Facility in Bingham township must prove it’s a responsible operator before expanding

The Research Resource Facility in the Bingham township has yet to prove to the surrounding community its preparedness to tackle a new expansion project.

Until the western Orange County facility does so, it should not undertake further construction.

The facility received a $14.5 million grant as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which will be matched by $7 million from the University to build three new buildings.

But the Bingham facility has recently been plagued by a string of violations. The first was in November of last year — a 630-gallon spill of treated wastewater that entered nearby Collins Creek, which connects with Jordan Lake.

Another violation was actually construction-related. Chemicals used in the building reached the facility’s septic tank.

It has been a headache for the facility and a cause for concern for residents of Bingham township.

The University has been a poor neighbor.

Bob Lowman, associate vice chancellor for research, was appointed in charge of the Bingham township facility after its initial wastewater issues.

“Because of the violations and citations we’ve been issued, we are legally obligated to fix the system whether we build any new buildings or not,” he said earlier this month.

This statement fails to rank the facility’s priorities.

Remedying wastewater leaks and assuaging the concerns of community members should come before further construction — especially when one wastewater violation already was construction-related.

In addition to previous leaks, local residents have voiced concerns about slow records requests, traffic and noise pollution.

They have also expressed concern about a portion of the expansion encroaching on wetlands.

Plans for construction are supposed to be finalized by mid-next year.

This process should be subordinate to further town hall meetings, remediation of environmental harms and addressing the concerns of Bingham township.

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