Administrators from the City of Ames and the National Animal Disease Center say miscommunication and misinformation led to reports that potentially dangerous animal waste from disease testing was dumped into the Ames wastewater treatment system.
Ames City Manager Steve Schainker says employees of the N-A-D-C brought it to the city’s attention that protein substances called prion were being released into the system. Schainker says the city immediately met with the center’s administrators.
Schainker says the N-A-D-C assured the city that the procedures to destroy the prions before they are released are consistent with scientific research. Schainker says they were also told that there is no way the prions can be transmitted to humans.
Schainker says they’re satisfied with what the N-A-D-C has told them, but will follow up on the claims to be sure. Schainker says, “The City of Ames and the N-A-D-C agree that because this matter involves important issues of health and safety, our citizens and employees must be assured that these concerns are taken seriously, assessed quickly, and addressed immediately as appropriate.”
Schainker says the staffs of the city and N-A-D-C will conduct an independent review of the allegations. Schainker says the review will have four goals, with the first being to identify the accepted method for effectively destroying prions. He says secondly they will be asked to assess the concerns raised regarding the N-A-D-C’s current and past methods for destruction of prions. Third, they will determine the risk posed to humans and the environment form the current as well as previous destruction of methods for prions.
Caird Rexroad Junior of the Agricultural Research Service addressed some of what he says was wrong information reported on the process. Rexroad says no animal parts are flushed into the system. Rexroad says all solid waste, animal carcasses and tissues, are incinerated. Rexroad says the thing that’s at issue is the liquid waste from the animals, such as feces and urine.
Rexroad says liquid waste is not pumped directly into the wastewater system. Rexroad says the liquid waste goes into a treatment tank, and no liquid waste can leave the plant until it is treated. Rexroad says the liquid waste is treated with heat the “with scientific research assures us effectively deactivates the prions.” The E-P-A raised concerns that the N-A-D-C was only treating the liquid waste with bleach.
Rexroad says there are other methods to deactivate the prions, but he says the N-A-D-C chose this way because of its effectiveness. He says, “Science indicates that the process that we use at N-A-D-C to ensure liquid waste is safe, deactivates 999-point-999 percent of the prions. In fact that scientific study was conducted for one minute, we treat our wastestream for 30 minutes.”
Rexroad says the testing involves chronic wasting disease, and scrapie disease, but “Mad Cow” testing is not taking place as the center yet.
Rexroad could not say why the E-P-A did not understand the waste treatment method being used at the N-A-D-C. He says, “I think its…There’s a lot of communication issues.” Schainker and Rexroad say they’ll put together a panel of experts to conduct the review of the process.
Schainker says he doesn’t think the public has anything to worry about. He says “I can’t say we’re concerned right now” Schainker says they do take it seriously and will examine the allegations thoroughly. Schainker says it could take up to three months for the panel to complete its work.