Impact study on lab expected mid-month

Source: The Herald Sun

By William F. West

BUTNER — A much-awaited draft environmental-impact statement on the controversial National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility is expected to be made public the middle of this month.

“It is shortly forthcoming,” Amy Kudwa, a Department of Homeland Security spokeswoman, said Monday.

The report is anticipated to provide approximately 1,000 pages of findings on the effects of a germ-fighting laboratory on the surrounding air, land and water at potential sites, including Butner, Kudwa said.

“It will be a lot to wade through,” said Warwick Arden, who heads a North Carolina consortium of academics, experts and governmental leaders seeking to have the NBAF located in southern Granville County.

“One of the things I am hoping comes out of this is some sense of ranking, if you will, of what are the preferred sites, the most appropriate sites. And what are least preferred or least appropriate sites.” Arden said Monday. “And I am hoping that that is fairly self-evident somewhere in the document.”

Arden is dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine at N.C. State University.

He said plans call for a team of experts and officials, “probably about not less than a half a dozen to 10 people,” himself included, to read the document.

After that, he said, he and his fellow readers “will come together and basically discuss our interpretation or our findings of it.”

“I would say it’s going to take us at least a couple of days” to look at the details intelligently before making a public statement, he said.

Arden said those who will read the document include an administrative assistant, plus Barrett Slenning, who is an associate professor on N.C. State’s veterinary faculty.

Arden added that representatives of the N.C. Biotechology Center and agribusiness will be included among the readers.

“I really want to get some broad input here to see if any of the constituents of the consortium have some uneasiness or that there are issues in there that raise flags,” he said.

He maintained that he and his fellow readers will keep an open mind when viewing what the federal government has to say in print.

“I think sometimes some of the opposition feel that we’re just heckbent on trying to bring this to North Carolina, no matter what. And that’s just not the case,” he said. “At the end of the day, it really has to be a good fit.”

Kathryn Spann, an attorney who serves on the steering committee of the opposition Granville Non-Violent Action Team, said a small group would read at least the parts pertaining to the Butner site within the first 24 hours and, after that, examine the document in more detail.

“Our ultimate goal is not haste, but correctness,” Spann said.

“I would hope that they have done some careful examination” of a worst-case scenario posed by a potential release of diseases, including the effects on Holt Reservoir, Falls Lake, Lake Michie, Little River Reservoir and Lake Rogers, she said.

Butner remains a finalist for the NBAF, along with Athens, Ga.; San Antonio; Manhattan, Kan.; and a town near Jackson, Miss.

The NBAF, which is expected to cost at least $450 million, would replace an increasingly outdated facility at Plum Island, N.Y.

Other factors

The environmental impact statement itself will not be the deciding factor in whether the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF) should be built or where. The decision will be made based on the following factors:

— Analyses from the environmental impact statement.

— A combination of environmental, economic, engineering and other technical factors.

— Applicable federal, state and local laws and regulatory requirements.

— Consultation requirements among the federal, state and local agencies, as well as federally recognized American Indian Nations.

— Policy considerations.

— Public comment.