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State agrees to Cornell request to halt permitting process for Veterinary College incinerator

At the request of Cornell University, the permitting process for the replacement incinerator at the university's College of Veterinary Medicine has been suspended by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), and the university is inviting community and campus groups to participate in an advisory committee on the project.

In response to a number of concerns voiced by community members, Cornell asked the State University Construction Fund (SUCF), lead agency on the project, to request that the DEC delay the process until additional data on a number of questions can be generated and evaluated. The permitting process was halted Aug. 7. Cornell is in the process of reaching out to community and campus organizations to join a community advisory committee that will discuss all aspects of the incinerator issue. Franklin M. Loew, dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine, and Harold D. Craft, Cornell vice president for facilities and campus services, will co-chair the committee.

"The university is fully willing to enter into a dialogue with members of the campus community and our neighbors concerning the environmental and public-health issues associated with the project," Loew said. "Community concerns are important, and the advisory committee provides a formal way of integrating those concerns."

"We intend to discuss all aspects of the project with the committee. We take the community concerns seriously, and it is our intention to be responsive to the advice" that the committee members offer, Craft and Loew write in their letters being sent to groups invited to send a representative.

Among those being invited to appoint a representative are: the Tompkins County Board of Representatives; Ithaca Town Board; Forest Home Improvement Association; Cornell Greens; United Progressives; Student Assembly, Employee Assembly, University Assembly, Graduate and Professional Student Assembly and Faculty Senate; Citizens Concerned About Regulated Medical Waste; Southern Tier Veterinary Medical Association; Cornell-Ithaca Safety Committee; Tompkins County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals; and New York Farm Bureau. The committee will meet as soon as its membership is established.

The committee will have the opportunity to define its areas of concern. "We have purposely left the process as open as possible," Craft said. "The committee's work will seriously influence Cornell's decision. No issue related to the incinerator is outside the scope of the committee's interest."

Cornell has been working with SUCF since 1991 to plan and construct an upgraded, state-of-the-art replacement incinerator for the College of Veterinary Medicine on campus. The proposed facility would incorporate the latest pollution-control devices and be the third in a series of incinerators on the site that have been burning the college's medical waste for almost 40 years.