The Daily Tar Heel

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Friday December 9th

UNC-owned animal research facility showing improvement

A UNC animal research facility has had a troubled history of environmental violations — and on Wednesday, a state environmental review committee discussed recent improvements.

The Bingham Facility is a 56-acre, UNC-owned animal research facility in rural western Orange County that houses about 200 dogs used for the study of blood disorders and heart disease.

Since 2009, the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources has issued two violations to the Bingham Facility for leaking treated wastewater. The facility also turned itself in for damages to nearby wetlands, said Robert Lowman, UNC associate vice chancellor for research.

Lowman told the Environmental Review Commission — which is composed of state senators and representatives — that a new animal research facility at N.C. State University is being considered.

Lowman said the University has been working to rectify these issues, including stopping the usage of its wastewater system and refurbishing that system.

The Bingham Facility has also canceled the construction of new buildings, Lowman said.

Instead, UNC officials are looking to collaborate with N.C. State and build another animal research facility — away from UNC.

“I’ve always asked the question, ‘Why not at N.C. State where they have the infrastructure to support this kind of activity?’” said Cliff Leath, a neighbor of the Bingham Facility.

Lowman said the University is currently working with N.C. State on a new large animal research facility which would be located at the N.C. State University College of Veterinary Medicine.

“I think the possibilities of collaborating with N.C. State are tremendously exciting,” he said. “There’s a good match in scientific expertise in what the College of Veterinary Medicine has at N.C. State and what we have.”

Lowman said the controversy over the Bingham Facility began when the University decided to expand the facility and consolidate all of the dogs from the Carrboro and Hillsborough facilities.

The University purchased three adjacent properties as a buffer between the neighbors and the facility, but the neighbors complained about the University’s lack of transparency in the purchase of these lands.

“We have no plans, I repeat, no plans to incorporate these buffer properties into Bingham,” he said.

“We have created a facility that should once again, with the completion of our wastewater system this spring, fade into obscurity again as a very quiet place where we are doing good research and should not, we hope, be bothering the neighbors.”

Rep. Ruth Samuelson, R-Mecklenburg, said there was no further action to be taken on this issue at this time.

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