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Cornell carcass digester spills wastewater into city waters


ITHACA, N.Y. -- An equipment malfunction at the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine causes thousands of gallons of animal carcass wastewater to be dumped into Ithaca's Wastewater Treatment Facility and storm drains that run into Fall Creek and Beebe Lake.

A statement by Kyu-Jung Whang, Cornell University's vice president for facility services, described the spill that happened late Friday night.

According to the statement, about 3,000 gallons of hydrolysate effluent, or liquefied carcasses, mixed with about 90,000 gallons of clean water was accidentally released from the school's digester.

The statement also said there is no biological hazard from the spill and the university is doing further testing. The spill has been reported to the city and the Department of Environmental Conservation. Meanwhile, the digester has been temporarily taken out of use.

This is the second spill into the city's waters this year and although it is filtered, many residents are concerned about what might have gone into the drinking water.

"The bottom line is we have no idea what this wastewater contains," said Walter Hang of Toxics Targeting. "It goes to our wastewater treatment plant which is only designed for human waste and then that discharges into southern Cayuga Lake where more than 30,000 people get their drinking water. It's just intolerable."

Hang plans to bring the matter up to the D.E.C.

Cornell administrators declined to comment, but wrote in the statement that they are looking into the problem.