The legacy of Plum Island Animal Disease Center is not one of promise and prosperity it is one of security breaches, enviromental releases and funding cuts. The funding and the grants will be of benefit to the business special interest, Academia and Universities not surrounding communities.  The community will be left with what New York residents are being left with, a dangerous bio hazard on a massive scale.  Ask yourself, Is the legacy of PIADC what you want for your children and  grandchildren? 

 The summary below is part of a petition. It outlines many issues that have not been part of the public debate. It appears here with the permission of the author,  Dr. Joseph Melamed,  Dr. Melamed recently had this to say about the lab, ” This is not a political, economic, or race issue. It is a public health issue”.  

Proposed National Bio Agra Defense Facility at Butner, NC 

  • In 2008 the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will determine where to relocate the aging Plum Island Animal Disease Center (PIADC) currently located on an isolated 840 acre island off the North Fork of Long Island in New York.
  • One of the five remaining sites under consideration is a federally owned farm in Butner, NC, located three miles from I85 near Lake Michie, the water supply for Durham and in the watershed for Falls Lake, Raleigh’s water supply.
  • The proposed facility will include a “BSL-4” laboratory, defined by DHS as one which studies “microorganisms that pose a high risk of life-threatening diseases for which there is no known vaccine or therapy.”
  • DHS states that “Examples of microorganisms that could possibly be studied in a NBAF BSL-4 lab include Nipah, and Hendra viruses, both of which are emerging zoonotic diseases that can spread from their natural reservoir to human beings, and are often fatal.”
  • Other diseases that could be studied in the proposed BSL-4 facility include: Ebola, Small Pox, various deadly hemorrhagic fever viruses, and weaponized versions of Anthrax.
  • According to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID) the NBAF organisms studied at the proposed Butner lab would include “…the world’s most dangerous microbes, several capable of rapid widespread human depopulation.”
  • A NC consortium promoting the facility along with local officials contend that the facility will boost the local economy and that it will be “leak proof” and completely safe.
  • Deputy Raleigh City Attorney, Dan McLawhorn, has filed objections to the funding and construction of the proposed germ laboratory in Butner, N.C. citing concerns over flow of wastewater into the watershed serving Raleigh.
  • To date, Butner city commissioners’ request for an informational meeting with DHS officials has gone unanswered.
  • The existing PIADC which the proposed facility will replace has a disastrous record of leaks and security breaches:
    • July 21, 1954 – Plum Island worker contracts Vesicular Stomatitis after exposure to an infected animal.
    • December 24, 1967 – The New York Times reports “Fatal Virus Found in Wild Ducks on L.I.”  A virus never before seen in the Western Hemisphere, which began with ducks on the North and South Forks of Long Island opposite Plum Island, spread across the entire continent by 1975.
    • 1971 – USDA proclaims that “Plum Island is considered the safest in the world on virus diseases.  As proof of this statement there has never been a disease outbreak among the susceptible animals maintained outside the laboratory on the island since it was established.”
    • 1975 – PIADC begins work feeding viruses to “hard tics,” including the Lone Star tic (now endemic to NY but before 1975 never seen outside of Texas) which is a carrier of Borelia burgdorferi, the Lyme Disease bacteria.  First cases of the disease later known as Lyme Disease reported in Connecticut and Eastern Long Island, both directly across form Plum Island.  Current epidemiologic data shows that epicenter of all U.S. cases of Lyme disease was centered at Plum Island, N.Y.
    • September 15, 1978 – News release: “Foot and Mouth Disease has been diagnosed in cattle in a pre-experimental animal holding facility at the Plum Island Animal Disease Center.”  A documented outbreak had occurred.
    • 1979 – Internal investigation of the foot and mouth disease outbreak uncovers massive widespread failures in containment systems at PIADC.  Committee report: “Recommend that Lab 101 not be considered as a safe facility in which to do work on exotic disease agents until corrective action is accomplished.”
    • 1979 – Disregarding the committee recommendation, the US Army undertakes investigation of deadly “Zagazig 501” strain of Rift Valley Fever at PIADC.  Sheep held outside of the lab that should have been destroyed as part of the containment policy following the foot and mouth disease outbreak were vaccinated with an experimental Rift Valley Fever vaccine, in violation of the lab’s primary directive prohibiting outdoor experiments.
    • 1982 – Federal review board begun after foot and mouth outbreak issues annual report: “We believe there is a potentially dangerous situation and that without an immediate massive effort to correct deficiencies, a severe accident could result… [L]ack of preventive maintenance, [and] pressures by management to expedite programs have resulted in compromising safety.”
    • 1983 – Six Plum Island workers test positive for African Swine fever virus.  Workers were not notified of their results.
    • 1991 – Federal government decides to privatize PIADC.  A New Jersey company, Burns & Roe Services Corporation, is the low bidder and is awarded the contract.  In order to cut costs, expensive safety and security measures are scaled back.
    • June 1991 – An underground power cable supplying Lab 257 at PIADC shorts out and is not replaced because there was no money left in the budget.
    • August 18, 1991 – Category 3 Hurricane Bob hits Plum Island knocking down overhead power lines connecting Lab 257 to its only remaining source of electricity, a generator at another location on the island.  Freezers containing virus samples defrost, air seals on lab doors are breached, and animal holding room vents fail.  The lab’s ‘fail-safe’ mechanism of ‘air dampers’ to seal off the facility also fail in the open position.  Melted virus samples mix with infected animal waste on the floor while swarms of mosquitoes fill the facility.
    • September 1991 – USDA denies that any system failures occurred during the hurricane.  Both workers in Lab 257 at the time of the blackout are fired.  Both later develop mysterious undiagnosed diseases.
    • 1992 – OSHA and EPA cite PIADC with hundreds of safety violations.  OSHA returned five years later and found that the violations had not been corrected.  At that time 124 new violations were found.
    • July 13, 1992 – While USDA continues to officially deny that any biological weapons research takes place at PIADC, fourteen Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army, and Pentagon officials visit Plum Island.  Internal documents indicate that the visit was “to meet with [Plum Island] staff regarding biological warfare.”
    • Early 1990s – PIADC annual report to Congress is eliminated.
    • August 1999 – First four human cases of West Nile virus ever reported in the Western hemisphere are diagnosed on Long Island, NY.  Horse farms, all within a five mile radius of one another, on the North Fork of Long Island directly opposite Plum Island, report horses dying following seizures.  25% of the horses in this small area test positive for West Nile virus.  Of the 271,000 equines tested in three states at the time of the outbreak only those on the North Fork of Long Island were positive.
    • 1999 – New York Postquotes USDA spokesperson: “…top security [at Plum Islands] does not mean top-secret.” In spite of this statement, attempts to obtain information on the inventory of viruses in storage at PIADC under the federal freedom of information act were denied on the basis of ‘national security.’
    • 1999 – A cold war era document is declassified proving that in the early 1950s twelve vials of weaponized Anthrax (enough to kill over 1 million people) were shipped to PIADC.  This revelation directly contradicts prior official statements to the contrary by government agencies.
    • 1999 – New York Timesreports that PIADC is quietly beginning to upgrade to BSL-4 status.  Public outcry prompts US Congressman Mike Forbes to intervene and funding for the project is killed in the 2001 federal budget.
    • July 2000 – New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) finds “very troubling” hazardous waste violations at PIADC prompting New York State attorney general to sue USDA.
    • July 2001 – Court approved consent order forces USDA to admit to sewage discharge violations.
    • September 2001 – Shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks someone begins sending weaponized Anthrax through the US mail, killing five people.  Genetic analysis showed that the dry Anthrax spores used in the attack originated from USAMRIID (Fort Detrick, MD).
    • Even though USDA continued to deny the presence of weaponized Anthrax at PIADC the FBI included the following questions in their polygraph tests of scientists under investigation: “Have you ever been to Plum Island?” “Do you know anyone who works at Plum Island?” “What do they do there?”
    • August 2002 – PIADC workers go out on strike to protest unsafe working conditions.
    • December 2002 – National Resources Defense Council names Plum Island “number 2” of 12 worst polluters in N.Y. and N.J.  A state senator on the task force comments: “What disturbs me is the consistent flow of misinformation….  I feel that some of the misinformation borders on a cover-up.  [I]t shakes the foundation of our very form of government.”
    • 2002 – Pakistani police arrest Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood, a nuclear physicist with ties to Osama Bin Laden, and Mullah Omar.  From his residence they recover material on Plum Island.
    • June 2003 – President George W. Bush transfers control of PIADC to Homeland Security.  Airspace over Plum Island remains unrestricted, and gates to Lab 101 are open and unguarded.
    • Leaks and security breeches have occurred at BSL-4 labs, not just at PIADC
      • 1994 – Virologist at Yale infected with Sabia virus (now designated as a BSL-4 agent).  75 other workers exposed.
      • 2001 – Multiple researchers infected with Plague at Rocky Mountain Lab in Montana.
      • April 2002 – Anthrax spores leaked at USAMRIID Lab (Fort Detrick, MD).  Researcher tests positive for Anthrax.
      • March 1, 2003 – A package containing West Nile virus explodes at a Federal Express building in Columbus, OH airport exposing workers.
      • June, 2003 – 113 vials of Anthrax, Brucelosis, Ebola, and other organisms uncovered during excavation of a toxic waste site at Fort Detrick, MD

Dr. Tindall of the Triangle Biotechnology Institute, spokesman for the North Carolina consortium promoting the NBAF, had this to say in response to various questions about the proposed Butner facility.

  • Question:On December 15, 2000 The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID) supported the construction of a new BSL-4 (Rocky Mountain Laboratory) because “…the RML campus is located in rural western Montana, well removed from major population centers.  The location of the laboratory reduces the possibility that an accidental release of a biosafety level-4 organism would lead to a major public health disaster.”  In light of this internal government document which recommends siting a BSL-4 lab in an isolated area to protect the public, how do you explain your consortium’s support for siting the proposed NBAF in Butner within a 50 mile radius of nearly 2 million people?
  • Answer:  The proximity of the Butner, NC site to the scientific resources of RTP, the NC State veterinary school, and the various university research centers outweighs the potential downside of locating the facility just outside a major population center, and in immediate proximity to the water supply for Raleigh and Durham.
  • Question:  What diseases would be studied in the NBAF BSL-4 lab if it comes to Butner?
  • Answer:  Only Nipah and Hendra viruses.
  • Questions:  Might DHS decide at some time in the future to study other BSL-4 agents such as Ebola?
  • Answer:  Yes.
  • Question:  The DHS website indicates that Foot and Mouth Disease is among the “diseases that would potentially be studied at the NBAF.”  But, Public Law 48-496 passed by the U.S. Congress in April 1948, states that “…no live virus of foot and mouth disease may be introduced for any purpose into any part of the mainland of the United States except coastal islands separated therefrom by waters navigable for deep-water navigation and which shall not be connected with the mainland by any tunnel….”  Given existing federal law, how could DHS bring foot and mouth disease to Butner, N.C.?
  • Answer:  They could not unless Congress changed the law.
  • Question:  According to the DHS website “There has never been a public exposure at a BSL-4 lab in the United States.”  Is that true?
  • Answer:  Yes.
  • Question:  What about a 1/21/2002 Washington Postreport which uncovered the loss of dangerous microbes including Ebola from Fort Detrick in the 1990s?  Or the deadly 2001 U.S Mail attacks with weaponized Anthrax originating from Fort Detrick?
  • Answer:  none.
  • Question:  When attempts were made to obtain information about Plum Island under the freedom of information act they were blocked for reasons of national security, even though USDA claimed that ‘top secret’ work was not taking place there.  Now that the U.S. is at war, we are living in a ‘post 9/11’ era and DHS has assumed control of the NBAF from USDA, it seems logical that research at the proposed Butner lab which is replacing PIADC would continue to be “classified” for reasons of national security. Will that be the case?
  • Answer:No classified research will take place at the NBAF.
  • Question:  According to the scoping materials, the final decision regarding bringing NBAF to Butner is to be made in Washington, D.C., solely by DHS officials.   If federal officials decide to bring NBAF to Butner, would people living near this facility have any mechanism to influence what goes on there?
  • Answer:  Yes.  There will be a local oversight board.
  • Question:  Can you give me some details about that?
  • Answer:  No.

We, the undersigned physicians, believe that the proposed NBAF poses a dire and unjustified health risk not only for the local population in Granville County, but also for the entire triangle region.  To date, the public has been poorly informed of the exceptional risk posed by this facility.  We believe it is our duty as physicians to educate the public so that they may protect themselves against this infringement of their right to remain safe in their own homes.

 

Also here is a  must read white paper on  Plum Island’s/ NBAF  Dual Use Research is a risk to Nation Security.

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