Fifteen minutes out of town, down a country road in southwestern Orange County, UNC-Chapel Hill has quietly housed laboratory animals, mostly dogs now, since the 1970s.
The Bingham Facility, once called "The Farm," made headlines two and half years ago when repeated treated-wastewater spills drew sanctions from the state Division of Water Quality. The university paid a $15,000 fine after an unknown amount of treated wastewater from a leaking storage pond spilled into Colins Creek, an already polluted creek feeding the Haw River and eventually Jordan Lake. In an rare move, UNC leaders returned a $14.5 million federal grant they had hoped to use to expand the facility, when they determined the costs to fix the system and expand to an estimated 450 dogs and150 hogs would be greater than anticipated.
Today, about 85 dogs used in hemophilia research, remain in two decades-old buildings at the facility in Bingham Township. The future of a third building is unclear after a muscular dystrophy researcher left the university, taking his dogs with him. And while a UNC adminstrator says there are no plans for expanson, neighbors remain wary. About 100 attended a public hearing this week to ask state regulators for a full environmental impact statement before the university may resume spraying treated waterwater on land there.
Look for our report from that hearing in tomorrow's Chapel Hill News, updating an important story we first brought you to in 2010.