An investigation’s beginning into whether the National Animal Disease Lab in Ames dumped material from animal autopsies into the city sewage treatment system in Ames. The federal Environmental Protection Agency confirms the city of Ames has called the regional E-P-A office in Kansas City asking for advice.

E-P-A spokesman Martin Kessler says the city’s trying to determine just how long the lab’s been discharging fluid from its operations into the city’s water treatment system. The lab on the north side of Ames takes in animals suspected of having ailments including foot and mouth disease and B-S-E, and does testing on them. Some material from the bodies of animals with Mad Cow contains prions, proteins that are thought to transmit the disease.

Kessler says the E-P-A’s been told the lab was bleaching the waste, but that process doesn’t kill prions. The lab’s been advised to incinerate its animal waste, and a city engineer says there doesn’t seem to be any imminent threat, but an investigation is underway.