Archive for June, 2008


GNAT sums it up nicely.

“DHS must realize at this point that the whole concept of this lab needs to be revisited. The consequences of the accident scenarios are so catastrophic that I can’t imagine any public official is going to be reassured that the benefits outweigh the risks.”

Read their press release below or download a copy here.

GRANVILLE NON-VIOLENT ACTION TEAM

and

CLEAN WATER FOR NORTH CAROLINA

For Immediate Release: June 26, 2008

Contacts: Ron Howell, G.N.A.T., (919) 474-1215 (day); (919) 554-6986 (evening), ronhowell@att.com

Kathryn Spann, G. N. A. T., (919) 477-5653, kathryn6668@yahoo.com

Hope Taylor , C.W.F.N.C., (919) 410-9600, hope@cwfnc.org

Homeland Security’s DEIS for Bio-Defense Lab Lacks Design Specifics Necessary to Assess Risks and Low-Balls Impacts

Agency Acknowledges Potential for Fatal Infectious Diseases to Escape and

Become Established in U.S. Mainland Environment

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security released a draft environmental impact statement (“DEIS”) for the proposed National Bio- and Agro- Defense Facility, or NBAF late last Friday. The long-awaited DEIS leaves area residents baffled by its omission of design renderings for the proposed facility. Judy Winters, a Butner resident and member of the Granville Non-Violent Action Team (GNAT), questions, “How can they determine the public and environmental consequences of the NBAF without having a final design in place to assess the risks posed by the features and systems of that design?”

Although the DEIS contains conceptual floor plans for two possible building designs, the document indicates that no designs have been prepared for review in conjunction with the EIS process. For example, Homeland Security has yet to decide the whether it will use incineration or tissue digestion and sewer disposal to dispose of the carcasses and infected waste from the 150 large cows or nearly 1000 pigs that could be the subject of the facility’s exotic-disease research.

A building as large as the NBAF, with such a complex and risk-intensive mission, will require many separate drawings of the designs for electrical, mechanical, wiring, security systems, water systems, waste treatment systems, and containment features, as well as the backup systems promised by Homeland Security, according to Ron Howell, a senior reliability engineer and architect with 24 years of experience in evaluating the reliability and probability of failure in technologically sophisticated facilities. None of these appear in the DEIS. Without designs reflecting which of these methods will be used, it is impossible to assess whether those systems will be adequate to ensure that the facility minimizes the threat to the public. Howell continues, “I expect the lab will ultimately use no more safety features than Homeland Security’s budget says they can afford. Safety systems are always the first to be cut out of budgets, and this one is already apparently underfunded, as reflected in the recent Congressional testimony.” To add to the budget woes, the DEIS indicates that the Butner site is the only one of the 6 that would need totally new infrastructure of all types: water, sewer, gas, electric and roads.

“If I were an operator at the wastewater treatment plant receiving the supposedly ‘pretreated’ waste from the NBAF,” says Hope Taylor , a former biochemical researcher who now directs the environmental justice group Clean Water for North Carolina , “I’d want to know the waste was treated repeatedly and tested by rigorous methods before it was released to my plant. Nothing in the DEIS indicates the facility will test wastes for all diseases at the NBAF before discharging to the local plant, or that those test results would be available right away to wastewater operators or the public.”

The substantive information in the DEIS about possible disease releases has reinforced community concerns about the facility’s risk. Rift Valley Fever (RVF) results in illness in 90% of those exposed, and kills 1% of those who contract the disease.[1] It can be transmitted by mosquitoes and other biting insects, and affects livestock, household pets, wildlife, and humans. If the disease is released from the lab (which will also test the role of insects in spreading these exotic diseases), it could become permanently established in the insect and wildlife population across the country. The DEIS cited the spread of West Nile Virus as an example, but concluded that RVF established outside the lab would have “far more serious consequences.”[2] As RVF spread through the country, DHS estimates an economic impact exceeding $50 billion due to human and livestock deaths and the impact on public health, trade and tourism.[3]

The DEIS also acknowledges the high risk posed by a release of foot and mouth disease, which spreads very rapidly and can devastate the livestock industry. There is no cure for the disease, which can be carried on a person’s breath or clothes. Outbreaks are contained by slaughter and burning of potentially exposed animals. Until a provision was inserted in the recently-passed Farm Bill permitting foot and mouth research at the NBAF, research on the disease was banned by law from the mainland for many decades.

“We are baffled by the DEIS’s conclusion that the potential losses to the U.S. ’s livestock industry would top out around $4 billion,” said Kathryn Spann, a member of the GNAT group and the owner of an area farm. A 2001 foot and mouth epidemic in Britain devastated that country’s livestock industry, which is considerably smaller than that in the U.S. In its efforts to contain the spread of the disease, the British government slaughtered more than 6 million animals, shut down movement among farms, and halted meat and livestock exports. More than 9 months passed before the disease was contained. Economic losses reached $17 billion. North Carolina ’s agricultural industry comprises nearly one fifth of the state’s economy, and generates $66 billion a year.

GNAT members also expressed dismay at the shallow analysis of area characteristics. As Hope Taylor points out, “Homeland Security should have known that the local wastewater plant’s (SGWASA) permit is now under close scrutiny due to poor water quality in Knap of Reeds Creek and Falls Lake , Raleigh ’s drinking water supply, and that several new projects will soon restrict the plant’s available capacity.” Judy Winters noted that the facility would generate major traffic impacts. “If traffic on Range Road and Veasey Road is going to increase 500%, as the DEIS says, we really need to know what the impact will be in Butner and Creedmoor from all those cars coming from I-85.”

The DEIS does state that the NBAF is expected to employ fewer than 70 local residents, and will principally rely on researchers and operational staff from the existing facility in Plum Island .[4] Area resident David Krabbe expressed frustration, noting “Is all this risk worth 63 jobs?”

Ultimately, the final EIS must address not only the question of which location Homeland Security considers best for the NBAF, but whether the facility should be built at all. Says Taylor , “DHS must realize at this point that the whole concept of this lab needs to be revisited. The consequences of the accident scenarios are so catastrophic that I can’t imagine any public official is going to be reassured that the benefits outweigh the risks.”

——————————————————————————–

[1] DEIS pages D-9 and 10.

[2] DEIS page D-12.

[3] DEIS pages D-13 and 14.

[4] DEIS page 3-291.

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Surprise, Price nevers answers the question. At a massive 342 pages, the Patriot Act violates at least six of the ten original amendments known as the Bill of Rights—the First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh and Eighth Amendments—and possibly the Thirteenth and Fourteenth as well. He should just admit it he didn’t read it. Moreover, I wonder if he will read the 1005 page DEIS for the NBAF since he is actively a cheerleader for the project. If he is re-elected the citizens will have a “Price” to pay no pun intended. My opinion Price is the poster child for term limits.

 

 

The long awaited Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) was finally released, but folks as usual with the Bush Administration they release something important on a Friday with the hope that no news media outlets will pick up the story. WRAL didn’t let this story slip by.
The report itself is no surprise to Granville Non Violent Action Team (GNAT) says GNAT’s spokeperson Bill McKellar. “The report confirms what GNAT has been saying since last summer” and “DHS verifies the lab is extremely dangerous and is a risk to the state that accepts it “.
Within the 1005 pages lays the fate of the proposed 5 sites excluding Plum Island. At first glance the Umstead Research Farm in Butner is the only site that will have to upgrade the infrastructure in all key areas including, water and sewer, roads, and utilities. An aside note: for me it is almost laughable to imagine old Highway 75 a four-lane road, I wonder if the surrounding dirt roads will be paved? Let’s pray, it doesn’t come to that. 
Independent Weekly has the NBAF DEIS for your viewing on their website  (links below). Lisa Sorg will be doing a story in the June 25th edition of the Independent Weekly and as always Lisa’s reporting looks at the NBAF issue from a community perspective with balance.
  •  Material from DHS’s website for more go here.

The next step in this process will be a 60 day period for public comment and a DHS NBAF Town Hall meeting for all the sites. As for now the NC date appears to be set for late July. I will confirm those dates and other information as soon as I have it.

Comments may be submitted orally, in writing at the public meetings or by using one of the following mechanisms:

 

U.S. MAIL

U.S. Department of Homeland Security

James V. Johnson

Mail Stop #2100

245 Murray Lane, SW, Building 410

Washington, DC 20528

TOLL-FREE FAX

1-866-508-NBAF (6223)

 

TOLL-FREE VOICE MAIL

1-866-501-NBAF (6223)

 

ONLINE: http://www.dhs.gov/nbaf (click on Public Involvement)

 For now I have to refer to the experts on these matters a shetland sheepdog named Gretchen who says Just say No to the NBAF.

 
In all matters of security on my Granville County, N.C., farm, I consult my Shetland sheepdog, Gretchen. She’s the first line of defense here, meeting every visitor with a ferocious bark or a wag of the tail.

She also monitors the airways for rogue hawks, buzzards, geese and other possible threats: A passenger jet at 30,000 feet is not exempt from her scrutiny. And she’s completely transparent. You can tell immediately if she perceives danger, if she’s happy, wants food or craves attention, and her track record is great.

If Gretchen had been with me at the town hall meeting in Creedmoor back in February, she would definitely have been barking. Representatives from the Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Plum Island Animal Disease Center had come to answer our questions about the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility, a giant Department of Homeland Security project looking to find a possible home in Butner.

The Homeland Security representative told us that all research conducted at the facility would be transparent and that the results would be available. But under repeated questioning, he and members of the panel would not even tell us how many diseases now stored at Plum Island would be transferred here.

If you’ve ever tried to get documents from the DHS under the Freedom of Information Act, you know that transparency is not their strong suit. They’re much better at withholding information for reasons of national security. So will we really know what they’re doing at this facility? Developing germ-warfare agents? “Code orange: Sorry, can’t tell you. Oh, by the way, we at Homeland Security would like you all to provide us with a costly (tens of millions of dollars) backup power plant—which somehow didn’t make it into our budget.” Gretchen and I are worried about what else was left out of the budget. So much for transparency. Arf!

We were assured that many of our questions would be answered further down the road when the environmental impact study is released. Do I hear a low growl? This doesn’t smell right. Because if history is any guide, by the time the draft version of this study is released, DHS will already have chosen its preferred site. [Editor’s note: At press time, the document was due to be released soon.]So anyone waiting for the draft EIS before challenging the wisdom of building the defense facility in Butner will have more or less forfeited the possibility of having a significant impact on the decision. This is the ultimate lack of transparency. In Gretchen’s opinion, we might as well be chasing our own tails.

As we questioned Homeland Security’s ability to keep us safe, the panelists ducked, pointing to the sterling safety record at Plum Island and other facilities. But they left out a few things, such as the at least 75 accidents reported by the U.S. Government Accountability Office. They also failed to mention the 1978 breach of foot-and-mouth disease at the Plum Island lab or the fact that virtually every animal on the island had to be killed and incinerated. They didn’t mention Plum Island’s multiple citations by the Environmental Protection Agency for water-quality violations. They didn’t mention the huge amounts of bacteria being released into Long Island Sound, which led to the citations and fines. Nor did they mention that the Natural Resources Defense Council ranked Plum Island second in terms of EPA permit violations among facilities along the New York/New Jersey coast.

This disturbing track record, along with other DHS responses (think Hurricane Katrina), should give us pause. Can the Department of Homeland Security be entrusted with our future? Raleigh’s water supply, Butner Hospital and its residents, and the health and safety of our families and livestock are all at risk. So I’m sticking with Gretchen’s approach: Sniff out what doesn’t deserve my trust, and bark loudly in warning.

[Licensed acupuncturist Joe Pfister is a member of GNAT (the Granville Nonviolent Action Team). His wife, Jennie, has had Lyme disease. For more information on the campaign to block siting the NBAF in North Carolina

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Source: The Altanta-Journal Constitution

CDC action at germ lab questioned

Duct tape used to seal door inside Atlanta facility after possible leak of bioterror bacteria last year.


The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 06/22/08

At the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s new $214 million infectious disease laboratory in Atlanta scientists are conducting experiments on bioterror bacteria in a room with a containment door sealed with duct tape.

The tape was applied around the edges of the door a year ago after the building’s ventilation system malfunctioned and pulled potentially contaminated air out of the lab and into a “clean” hallway.

Nine CDC workers were tested in May 2007 for potential exposure to the Q fever bacteria being studied in the lab, CDC officials said this week in response to questions from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The air-flow incident occurred very early in the morning, before the workday began. The blood tests were done out of an “abundance of caution,” CDC spokesman Tom Skinner said, and they showed that none of the workers who arrived after the incident were infected.

Q fever, which causes high fevers and sometimes fatal heart problems, is most commonly spread when humans inhale bacteria-laden dust from contaminated animal waste. Human-to-human transmission is rare. It is classified as a potential bioterror agent because it is moderately easy to disseminate.

The CDC Q fever lab’s air containment systems have since worked properly, agency officials said; the lab is safe and poses no risk to workers. The public was never at any risk because numerous security layers were in place between the lab and the outdoors, they said.

Yet the duct tape remains in place.

“It’s an enhancement,” said Patrick Stockton, CDC safety and occupational health manager, as he and four other agency officials took a reporter to see the door Wednesday. “We could take it off.”

Critics want answers

The CDC’s explanations drew skepticism from some biosafety watchdogs —- especially since this is the same lab building that came under scrutiny by Congress and the Government Accountability Office last summer after the AJC revealed the building experienced an hour-long power outage and backup generators failed to come on.

“I do not believe the CDC would approve this arrangement in a laboratory other than their own,” Richard Ebright, a microbiologist and biosafety expert at Rutgers University in New Jersey, said of the taped Q fever lab door.

Continue reading

By SHAUN WATERMAN (UPI Homeland and National Security Editor) Middle East Times

WASHINGTON, June 20 (UPI) — Although the risks of an outbreak from a proposed new U.S. secure bio-defense and agricultural disease research lab are very low, the consequences would be worse at one of the mainland sites officials want than on the island where the work is currently done, says a draft report from the Homeland Security Department.

The department wants to build the new lab, dubbed the National Bio and Agro-defense Facility, at one of five potential mainland sites, but is also evaluating the existing site of the lab it would replace, the aging Plum Island Animal Disease Center, in New York state’s Long Island Sound.

The draft Environmental Impact Statement, published Friday, is a 1,005-page federally required assessment of a range of effects the planning, construction and operation of the lab would have at each of the proposed sites.

It says the health and safety impact — including the possibility of an accidental or deliberate release of pathogens from the lab — was “negligible” at all six possible sites, because of its assessment that the risk of such a release “was none to low for all accident scenarios except an over-pressure fire,” which can cause an explosion if flammable gases build up in an enclosed space.

The risk for this kind of accident was “moderate” for all six sites.

The department also assessed the possibility of a terrorist attack releasing pathogens from the lab — which will work on the most infectious animal diseases, like Foot and Mouth; and on those most deadly to humans, like the Hendra and Nipah viruses.

The overall risk assessment for a release at the five mainland sites was “moderate” because of “the potential easy spread of a disease through livestock or wildlife” nearby, the statement said. The Plum Island site overall risk rank was “low or none” because of “the low likelihood of any disease getting off of the island,” the statement concluded.

Moreover, the consequences of a Foot and Mouth outbreak would be less severe at the island site, for the same reason.

The existing center, an 840-acre lab complex on an isolated islet off the tip of Long Island, was opened in 1954. Officials say its facilities are now outdated, and cannot accommodate the security measures required for the work on the diseases most dangerous to humans — called Bio-Security Level Four. The current lab is certified only to Level Three, and there is no facility in the country where dangerous zoonotic diseases — ones that can spread from animals to humans — can be safely studied.

The department says about 10 percent of the proposed new facility’s space will be classified at Level Four.

The potential sites being studied, besides Plum Island, are Flora, Miss.; Athens, Ga.; Manhattan, Kan.; Butner, N.C.; and San Antonio, Texas. A Homeland Security study found the numbers of livestock in the areas surrounding the mainland sites ranged from 130,000-plus in Georgia to more than half a million in Kansas.

Homeland Security spokeswoman Amy Kudwa told UPI the environmental impact assessment was just one of a number of factors the department would consider when it made the decision about where to site the lab in late fall.

Other factors would include cost, public comment, and policy and regulatory considerations, she said.

Officials say the isolated location of the existing center — the island is accessible only by ferry and helicopter — poses challenges for its workforce and would dramatically impact the cost of construction at the site, which is slated to begin in 2010 and take four years.

By TED BRIDIS, Associated Press Writer – News and Observer

WASHINGTON – An outbreak of one of the most contagious animal diseases from any of five locations the White House is considering for a new high-security research laboratory would be more devastating to the U.S. economy than from the isolated island laboratory where such research is now conducted, says a new report published Friday.

The 1,005-page Homeland Security Department report said chances of such an outbreak – with estimated loses of more than $42.billion – would be “extremely low” if the research lab were designed, constructed and operated according to government safety standards.

Still, it calculated that economic losses in an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease could surpass $4 billion if the lab were built near livestock herds in Kansas or Texas, two options the Bush administration is considering. That would be nearly $1 billion higher than the government’s estimate of losses blamed on a hypothetical outbreak from its existing laboratory on Plum Island, N.Y.

The administration is studying the safest place to move its research on such dangerous pathogens from Plum Island to the U.S. mainland near herds of livestock, raising concerns about a catastrophic outbreak. A final choice is expected by late fall. The foot-and-mouth virus does not infect humans but could devastate herds of cattle, swine, lambs and sheep.

The five locations the U.S. is considering are Athens, Ga.; Manhattan, Kan.; Butner, N.C.; San Antonio; and Flora, Miss. A sixth alternative, considered unlikely, would be construction of a new research lab on Plum Island.

Economic losses in an outbreak would exceed $3.3 billion if the new lab were built in Georgia, North Carolina or Mississippi, the report said.

The new Homeland Security study concludes that risk would be low to nonexistent that an accident or terrorist attack would result in the outbreak of a dangerous pathogen at any of the sites except in case of a fire and explosion, which it said would pose a moderate risk that virus or disease could spread to nearby livestock or wild animals.

The threat from fire and explosion would be diminished for the government’s isolated laboratory on Plum Island “due to the low likelihood of any disease getting off of the island,” the report said.

The new National Bio-and Agro-Defense Facility would replace the existing 840-acre research complex on Plum Island, which is about 100 miles northeast of New York City in the Long Island Sound and accessible only by ferry or helicopter. Besides foot-and-mouth disease, researchers also would study African swine fever, Japanese encephalitis, Rift Valley fever and the Hendra and Nipah viruses. Construction would begin in 2010 and take four years.

The new study expresses the government’s confidence it could avoid any outbreak. But it also cautioned that, “should a large release occur there is considerable opportunity for the virus to cause infections and become established in the environment beyond the facility boundary.”

A simulated outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease – part of an earlier U.S. government exercise called “Crimson Sky” – ended with fictional riots in the streets after the simulation’s National Guardsmen were ordered to kill tens of millions of farm animals, so many that troops ran out of bullets. In the exercise, the government said it would have been forced to dig a ditch in Kansas 25 miles long to bury carcasses.

The new study said U.S. economic losses from an outbreak could ultimately be higher than the $5 billion suffered by Britain in 2001, when an epidemic forced the government to slaughter 6 million sheep, cows and pigs.

Associated Press writer Eileen Sullivan contributed to this story from Washington.

Last evening at a Public Hearing in Raleigh, the National Pollution Discharge Elimination Systems (NPDES) permit(s) for Southern Granville County Water and Sewer Authority (SGWASA) and several other dischargers who have consistently failed to meet permit requirements and water quality standards were challenged by the Neuse River Foundation as will as several residents from Butner.

Clean Water NC has deemed SGWASA as a “chronic polluter” and they have worked closely with residents of Butner to provide the community with the tools needed to have a better understanding of the potenial environmetal consequences of SGWASA’s continued non-compliance. SGWASA’s history speaks for its self consider this from Raleigh Eco News;

Southern Granville County Water and Sewer Authority’s sewage treatment plant, formerly Butner, has had a long history of compliance problems that have contributed directly to declining water quality in Falls Lake — a drinking water supply for 400,000 Wake County Citizens. Since 2003, this plant has received 86 Notice of Violations or enforcement actions by the state, totaling more than $61,000 in fines and penalties. Falls Lake was listed as impaired from pollution on the states 303d “Impaired Waters” list.

The NCDENR, Division of Water Quality notified SGWASA of the “significant changes from their current permit” on May 7, 2008. For those of you who have yet to comment there is still time to let your voice be heard. The comment period for the NPDES permit for SGWASA was extended unti June 30. This is not a new issue for those of us who live in Butner but we can have a hand in how this plays out in the future. 

Updated 070909 | If you had trouble with the “not a new” issue link above click here to download or read the story “Butner lied about water problems, keeper says” by Kristina Leighton, Wake Weekly Staff Writer

Now we have documented medical evidence that the Bush administration has committed war crimes, and in this instance the claims of abuse and torture may not be so easliy dismissed by Bush and his co-conspirators.  Physicians for Human Rights, an advocacy group based in Cambridge, Mass released today, the most extensive, comprehensive  report to date on the treatment of former terror suspects.  The former suspects were held at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the team of doctors confirmed what many former detainee’s have been saying since their release.

 The group alleges finding evidence of U.S. torture and war crimes and accuses U.S. military health professionals of allowing the abuse of detainees, denying them medical care and providing confidential medical information to interrogators that they then exploited.

The most damning allegation was made by a former investigator of the Abu Ghraib torture incident, Maj. General Antonio M. Taguba (USA-Ret.), it the reports preface he states;

After years of disclosures by government investigations, media accounts, and reports from human rights organizations, there is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes. The only question is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account.

Will they be held accountable indeed? We must demand that the Bush Administration is held accountable for their heinous acts and atrocious actions. You can find more information and read the report on the groups website, Brokens Laws, Broken Lives.

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