For Immediate Release: 

Clean Water for NC Calls for DHS to Withdraw NBAF Proposal for All Sites

Flawed Assumptions About Risk, Errors and Inadequate Environmental Assessment

            You have to give ‘em credit. The Dept. of Homeland Security has been constructing the foundation of its own failure to convince the public and officials that the NBAF can or should be sited at any mainland site, says Hope Taylor, executive director of Clean Water for NC.


            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. Taylor, who is also a small dairy goat farmer only a few miles from the proposed Butner site, emphasizes, “DHS must realize at this point that the whole concept of this lab must 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 proposed facility’s benefits outweigh its risks.”


            And it’s not just Foot and Mouth Disease, the highly transmissible pathogen that DHS wants to move to a mainland research setting after years of being banished to the off shore Plum Island animal disease lab. The Draft Environmental Impact Statement does acknowledge the “moderate” risk of a significant impact if a release occurs, and gives scenarios for both Foot and Mouth (for which it estimates under $4 billion in losses, significantly less than actually occurred in the UK following a release), and Rift Valley Fever (saying that losses could go as high as $50 billion, because RFV is transmissible to humans). The DEIS tends to minimize the risks, and assumes that organisms would be destroyed by the kind of fire or explosion that would destroy the containment structures for higher level biohazards. In fact, a pressure wave from any explosion could carry live organisms outside the range of a fire and leave the surrounding wildlife, livestock and residents vulnerable.


“If it was a proposal for a chemical factory in this location, there’d be no question”, it just wouldn’t happen,” exclaimed Dean Najouks, the Neuse River Foundation’s, Upper Neuse RiverKeeper.  “Why are we even talking about studying some of the world’s deadliest diseases right upstream from a water supply for over 400,000 people?” The concern for potential contamination of Falls Lake caused the Raleigh City Council to vote to oppose the NC site at Butner.


Such concerns are further deepened by the lack of regulatory credibility of state water quality regulators to limit releases of organisms from potentially inadequately treated water from the wastewater treatment plant where NBAF wastes would be piped, a wastewater plant that has a significant history of not holding industries accountable for their waste violations, and the lack of Clean Water Act standards for these disease organisms.


The DEIS is peppered with embarrassing errors from an agency about which most Americans are already skeptical after its mishandling of disasters and post 9/11 security precautions. The document states that “$51 billion” in tax revenues would come to North Carolina during the construction phase (we think they meant $51 million), and refers to ‘2.2 cars per day” on Rt. 75 (probably off by at least 2 of orders of magnitude), a major two-lane artery between Durham and Granville Counties. While dismissing the environmental impacts at various sites as “moderate” or “minor,” the report repeatedly refers to the “benefits” of the facility to local wildlife and livestock as “significant,” an extremely ironic twist, as one method of preventing the spread of diseases at a mainland site is destruction of wildlife around the facility, as has been done at Plum Island on occasion.


The issues most commonly raised by members and contacts of Clean Water for NC about the proposed NBAF facility have been:

1) impacts on water quality and new diseases introduced to the area, requiring impossible perfection of construction, maintenance and operations to prevent a release;

2) lack of transparency and public accountability for the facility’s operations;

3) the vulnerability of hospitalized and imprisoned residents, complete inability to evacuate or manage a quarantine of them;

4) excessive or ineffective security, downright paranoia and incompetence of DHS and its contractors, including possible paramilitary bullying of local population and;

5) the misleading portrayal of the facility as being a substantial economic benefit to the area, when most permanent employees would not be locally hired and there would not be a saleable product, so the facility’s economic productivity would always be dependent on uncertain federal funding.


Hope Taylor, Executive Director

Clean Water for NC