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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

UNC pays $16,000 fine; answers questions from feds

Posted by on Tue, May 25, 2010 at 6:30 PM

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UNC has paid a $16,000 fine levied by the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources related to the Bingham Facility’s illegal discharge of treated wastewater into Collins Creek last fall.

Read the letter from UNC to DENR: UNC_response_to_DENR_penalty.pdf.

Meanwhile, the National Institutes of Health, which awarded UNC a $14.5 million construction grant for an expansion of the Bingham Facility, has peppered the university with questions about a series of problems with the wastewater treatment system at the site.

In a letter to UNC, NIH Grants Management Specialist Christy Leake noted that the site “has had a few wastewater issues” and asked the university for further explanations about the repair and configuration of the wastewater treatment system, the citations from DENR and the existence of wetlands.

Read the NIH letter and UNC's response: NIH_letter_05122010.pdf"> NIH_response_for_C06_RR029912-01-_Bingham_Facility.pdf

In the original grant application, UNC stated incorrectly that no wetlands were on the property. After UNC mapped the site, it discovered several and reported the error to DENR. The state agency then cited UNC for encroaching on these protected areas.

“Although these incidents have been painfully embarrassing to the institution, they have also taught us some valuable lessons," wrote William Roper, dean of UNC Medical School, and Tony Waldrop, vice chancellor for research and economic development.

UNC acknowledged to the NIH and DENR that there were “problems with the design and construction of the wastewater treatment system.” UNC will not repair the current wastewater system, which has been closed for several months.

The original contractor for the project, Diehl & Phillips, has been replaced by McKim & Creed, which will design a new system.

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