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State may require UNC's Bingham Facility to get a permit

State regulators may require UNC to get a permit for its animal holding facility’s faulty wastewater treatment system after three discharges, including a slow leak that reached Collins Creek.

The system at the Bingham Facility was built under a “deemed permit” status. Instead of having to get a state permit, like systems treating kitchen and bathroom waste get, the Bingham Facility was exempted as an agricultural use.

Now UNC could face a fine or have the system’s “deemed permit” status revoked.

Staff at the state Division of Water Quality forwarded a recommendation today to administrators. Jay Zimmerman, environmental program supervisor, said after three leaks and other problems, a change in the permit status is possible.

“All of those things are leading us to question whether retaining the deemed permit status is the best and most appropriate thing right now,” he said this morning.

Mary Beth Koza, director of UNC’s Department of Environment, Health & Safety, had not spoken with state regulators about their recommendation.

“Whatever DENR request of us we will do,” she said.

We'll have more about the Bingham Faciliy in Sunday's Chapel Hill News.


UNC officials: We didn't know leak had reached creek

UNC officials who attended a Dec. 14 meeting with Bingham Township residents say they didn't mention that treated wastewater leak from an animal holding facility had reached a nearby creek because they didn't know it yet.

In a story in today's Chapel Hill News, we report that UNC suspected a 1.6 million gallon lagoon holding treated wastewater from dog kennels was leaking as early as Oct. 19. It took until Dec. 15 to install and turn on a sump pump to collect the leaking water and return it to the pond. The pond, which was about a quarter full, was expected to be emptied today and the water taken to OWASA's wastewater treatment plant.

Laura Streitfeld, an organizer with the citizens group Preserve Rural Orange, has called on UNC to stop using the lagoon until the state concludes its investigation. The state issued a notice of violation after observing green-dyed treated wastewater in Collins Creek Dec. 14. That was the same day as the meeting between UNC officials and Bingham Township residents at the Morehead Planetarium and Science Center.

Orange County to look at biosolids (sewage sludge) safety

What's in the sludge?

OWASA won't sell land off N.C. 54 to the county for a future waste transfer station. In tomorrow's N&O and Chapel Hill News, we report the water and sewer agency also is not interested in a land swap unless the county has a specific property to offer, which it doesn't.

So what's so important about the parcel? OWASA uses about 20 of the 43 acres to spread biosolids, the treated byproducts of the sewage process. The county has over 1,000 acres permitted for sludge application, but the majority is owned by private entities. Is OWASA holding on to its land because it might someday become more difficult to find suitable sites for sludge disposal?

OWASA director Ed Kerwin suggests maybe. The EPA says sewage sludge is safe when applied by the rules. But groups like the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League continue to raise questions. Now, the county's Environment and Resource Conservation Department plans to ask the county board to take a closer look.

We'd like to talk with local people who have feelings -- pro and con -- about biosolids in Orange County. If you are interested in talking with a reporter please contact me at 932-2003 or

Read more in tomorrow's Chapel Hill News.

Carrboro mayor: Bingham annexation unlikely

It worked in Hillsborough, where a threat to annex effectively eliminated sites south of town from hosting a future solid waste transfer station.

Now an Orange County woman has asked the mayor of Carrboro if that town would consider annexing Bingham Township. The township lies just west of Carrboro, and the county commissioners have made two sites there top contenders for the future garbage depot. Residents also fear UNC leaders want to put an airport there.

“If you think that Carrboro would consider such a move if Bingham Township residents requested it, I would like to proceed with collecting signatures of Bingham Township residents supporting such a move, with the aim of presenting the request to the Board of Aldermen in early 2009,” Rachel Hoke wrote in an e-mail to Mayor Mark Chilton.

The mayor responded a couple of days ago. He says he loves the rural township and has friends there.

“However, about 20 years ago the Town of Carrboro entered into an agreement with Orange County and Chapel Hill under which Carrboro conceded a large amount of the town's annexation area west of Carrboro in exchange for new annexation areas north of Homestead Road," he wrote. "This was intended to prevent development in the University Lake Watershed (because new development there would compromise the quality of drinking water coming from University Lake).”

Chilton doesn’t think the town would try to annex areas in Bingham Township now because of that agreement.

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