February 22, 2010

University: Wastewater Was Not Tested After Discharge

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Cornell did not run tests on the animal carcass wastewater it accidentally discharged to Ithaca city sewers Friday, deputy University spokesperson Simeon Moss said in an email yesterday morning. The University had originally stated that tests for dangerous substances on the wastewater had come back negative.

Although the specific animal carcass wastewater released into Ithaca’s sewers was not tested, Moss said that the University remained confidant that the substance was neither infectous nor hazardous to the public. Moss cited previous tests which he said demonstrated that the alkaline hydrolysis digester — used by the Vet School to immunize waste — effectively “inactivate[s] [toxic] prions.” Prions are proteins found in raw animal carcasses which may cause neurological disorders.

Nonetheless, Friday’s incident has called into question the safety of the College of Veterinary Medicine’s waste disposal system. It is already subject to investigations by the Department of Environmental Conservation and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Moss said that the wastewater had been screened for toxic substances before it was run through the digester. He stressed that the digester had treated the waste for “more than six hours” before it was accidentally discharged.

Moss said that the University’s initial erroneous claim that the water had been tested was the result of an internal misunderstanding.

Original Author: Jeff Stein