The article below has an error within it , and it is no longer amusing to point out half- truths relating to public statements made by NBAF supporters. Mr. Larry Barrett omits the FMD outbreak at Plum Island, June/July of 2004.

“Barrett said in the facility’s more than half-century of use, a health risk occurred only once, in 1978, when a virus escaped. The threat was quickly neutralized.”

For the record, there were 2 incidences, 1 month apart in 2004, one on June 24th and then another July 19th, but according to him there was only one in 1978. Barrett also states that the threat was quickly neutralized, what he didn’t say was every animal on Plum Island was slaughtered including the wildlife.  


Southold Residents Express Reservations

Federal officials braved a storm of resistance from Southold residents last week as they convened at town hall to discuss building a new 520,000-square-foot bio-research compound on Plum Island.

By Robert Wargas – Suffolk Life

Peppered with questions and concerns at the April 15 meeting, a panel of US Department of Homeland Security representatives defended the construction of the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility on the 840-acre island, located 1.5 miles from Orient Point and nine miles from Old Saybrook, Connecticut.
Like the existing facility, which is classified as Bio-Safety Level 3, the new compound would conduct research on foreign livestock diseases, though it would step up research to Bio-Safety Level 4 and also examine animal viruses that could be fatal to humans.
The panel moderator, reading residents’ pre-written questions off cards, directed inquiries to the officials, including James Johnson, director of the DHS Office of National Laboratories and Dr. Bill White, a veterinarian for the US Department of Agriculture who works at the present facility.
Concerns over the proposal had mostly to do with safety issues, with residents questioning whether officials had contingency plans in place for events such as a break-in, a virus leak, an outbreak or a terrorist attack.
The security system at the existing facility closely resembles what would be in place at the new facility, said Dr. Larry Barrett, director of the present Plum Island Animal Disease Center. In addition to being isolated on an island accessed by a clearance-only boat ride, the facility still would have dual perimeter fencing, closed circuit television and a squad of 50 security guards, he said. However, while the same measures would be in place, the security system itself would be upgraded.
Eugene Cole, an architect and DHS bio-safety expert, said the facility would feature a “box-in-a-box” construction style, in which laboratories would be surrounded by outer walls fitted with special air filtration systems. Also, anyone exiting a laboratory would have to shower, and all materials taken out of a virus-inspection area would be sterilized, he said.
Still, residents were not satisfied. “Do I have to remind you what happened on September 11?” asked one woman.
Officials agreed that terrorist threats are possible but said the facility has no specific contingency plan in place for such circumstances. In the event of a terrorist attack, they said, the facility would respond according to standard national protocol.
Staff at the existing facility, which began operations in 1954, conduct research on highly contagious foreign animal diseases, including foot-and-mouth disease, classical swine fever, African swine fever and Japanese encephalitis. The new facility would extend its research to other, human-threatening diseases such as the Nipah and Hendra viruses.
Barrett said in the facility’s more than half-century of use, a health risk occurred only once, in 1978, when a virus escaped. The threat was quickly neutralized.
“My job is to make sure the island is a good neighbor,” he said. “And I think we’re doing that … We’re trying to protect the country; that’s our job.”
The East End island is one of six sites the DHS is considering for the new facility. The others are located in Athens, Georgia; Manhattan, Kansas; Flora, Mississippi; Butner, North Carolina; and San Antonio, Texas. Plum Island is the only site not located on the American mainland.
Officials said the present Plum Island facility, which they believe is too old and too small for the new research, will be shut down at some point, regardless of whether the new one is built there.
There are four safety classifications for facilities that deal with biological research. According to DHS documents, a Bio-Safety Level 3 examines microorganisms present in the United States as well as foreign agents that may harm livestock but not humans. A Bio-Safety Level 4 deals with “microorganisms that pose a high risk of life-threatening disease and for which there is no known vaccine or therapy.”
Currently, there are only four facilities operating at Bio-Safety Level 4 in the United States.
Approximately 10% of the research conducted at the new facility would be considered Bio-Safety Level 4, White said, stressing that the researchers there would be working with diluted viruses and that there would not be “enough virus to infect one single person.” And even if the facility’s entire electrical system were to fail, he said, the viruses, all contained in air-tight vials, would die quickly without proper refrigeration.
East End representatives are hesitant to back the proposal. US Congressman Tim Bishop (D-Coram) said he supports the current facility but is wary about health risks associated with the new proposal.
“I believe it is important for Plum Island to continue conducting its research in order to help protect the nation’s food supply,” he said. “For decades, Plum Island has provided critical research and new discoveries as a Bio-Safety Level 3 [facility] … I want to reiterate my long-standing opposition to placing a Bio-Safety Level 4 on Plum Island.”
County Legislator Ed Romaine (R-Riverhead) agrees, saying he advocates disease research but is not willing to bump research status up to Bio-Safety Level 4.
“The security and the health of my constituents comes first,” he said.
A draft environmental impact statement, expected to be released at the end of May, will report on the potential hazards at all six proposed sites, federal officials said. A site decision most likely will be made later this year, they said.