by Lisa Sorg
UNC is relinquishing a $14.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health that would have funded new additions to the Bingham Facility, formerly known as the Farm, the university announced late today. This means expansion of the facility has stopped.
Earlier this year, UNC received the grant, which was part of the federal stimulus package. The money was for "shovel-ready" projects that have a short completion time. UNC planned to use the money to erect two new buildings to house additional animals for research on genetic diseases such as muscular dystrophy and hemophilia.
"We have concluded that pursuing the NIH-funded expansion would require more costly infrastructure upgrades than anticipated," wrote Bob Lowman, UNC associate vice chancellor for research, in an e-mail to neighbors, many of whom have long been concerned about environmental and public health implications of the expansion. "This is a major change of course for us and it will take some time to determine our future plans for the Bingham Facility."
However, due to serious problems with the facility's wastewater treatment plant—it is closed and UNC will build a new one—the Bingham Facility's construction schedule has been delayed. In addition, the original grant application to the NIH stated there were no wetlands on the site; when the area was mapped earlier this year, it discovered there were several wetlands that had been damaged during construction.
The N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources fined UNC $16,000 as a result of t
hose wetlands encroachments illegal discharges into nearby Collins Creek.
Check back Tuesday for updates to this story.