On WRAL they have an article which appears to be an interview with Barrett Slenning a member of the NCC- NBAF Consortium. The article, WRAL says was originally published in the BT Catalyst which is publication by the North Carolina Biotechnology Center. Slenning has roots in Granville County and through my email contact with him, he seems to be a good guy whether I agree with him or not.
But several things he said concerns me as it should you. In my opinion it highlights the general attitude to the local community during the NBAF site selection process. For example;
It’s been disheartening, however, to see this opportunity become political. Some groups have latched onto misinformation and embraced half-truths in a way that is totally baffling. It’s hard to understand how people can disregard the facts. Worse, some opponents have leveled outrageous accusations with no link to reality at all.
“It’s been disheartening, however, to see this opportunity become political”?, It’s disheartening that the consortium didn’t hold public hearings before they submitted the Expression of Interest (EOI) in March 2006 for the NBAF. The EOI document dosen’t appear on the consortium’s website however, Ed Hammond, Director of the Sunshine Project made it available to the public on his website, as did GNAT. Is it politcal to offer a community up to host the largest BSL-4 ag Facility in the world without first seeking community acceptance for the project? And then deny the community access to the related documents? I think you can answer that question for yourself.
The consortium’s dialogue with the Butner community and citizens has never been open for discussion or to educate. It has been a Public Relations campaign buying full page ads in the Butner-Creedmoor News and a mass mailing to sell this lab no matter what. They waited however over a year and a half into the site selection process before they made that effort, I must add. These tactics were illustrated recently through the local media due to the disclosure of information concerning a Golden Leaf Foundation Grant. The consortium and NC BioTech applied for and received a public grant in the amount of $262,000 for (using their words) “education”. Public funds should not be used for advocacy or a PR campaign which was their purpose for the funds. It’s a little late in the game to try to win over a community they (the consortium) didn’t embrace to began with.
The consortium says in their ads “citizens deserve accurate information”. I have a suggestion how about citizens deserve to be informed they are expected to pay for the NBAF infrastructure and maintainance over the next 50 years or citizens deserve a competent Draft Environmental Impact Statement, that’s what citizens deserve.
You can not examine potential impacts regarding an issue as complex as the NBAF and not discuss the real world possibilities with the community. The good with the bad and the negatives, as well as the suggested positives. It is the proponents burden to prove this facility is a benefit to the community they expect to host it as well as if the lab is an economic asset not a liability. GNAT is the only group that has held a forum in Butner. Let me reiterate not Oxford, not Henderson, but Butner to inform citizens concerning the NBAF.
“I’ve been interested in agricultural biosecurity since the mid-1990s. Then in 2001, anthrax attacks in the United States and an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in the United Kingdom showed how devastating such animal diseases could be to society.
I think the argument can be made by this statement that Slenning is making a case against the NBAF. Consider the following “Theory Behind Pirbright Foot and Mouth Outbreak”
HSE (Healthand Safety Executive) could be compared to our FDA and the agency was asked by the UK Prime Minister to lead an investigation into biosecurity issues at the nearby Pirbright Laboratory facilities (Merial Animal Health Ltd and the Institute for Animal Health. (an aside note: Merial/Merck has a facility in Athens, Georgia and Merial/Merck is a few thousand feet from the proposed location for the NBAF in Butner, NC) The HSE produced the theory flow chart to demostrate their findings concerning exactly where the FMD outbreak or leak originated. Click on the thumbnail to read the full final report concerning HSE’s findings.
What do we know now? This one mistake cost the UK billions, citizens their lively-hoods and millions of animals were slaughtered, (culled) some animals were infected, others were not infected but, were slaughtered (culled) to stop the spread of the disease, as would be the case surrounding a FMD release from the NBAF. Given the fact that a lab was the known source of the leak (through DNA sequencing, a genetic match of the virus type was made) not a terrorism attack or a natural occurance of FMD, should this not bring the risk of an accidental release front and center in the debate instead of a justification for such a facility? Citizens deserve accurate information.
The Anthrax Attacks; As you know by now this was an inside job motivated by money and prestige. Many have suspected this was an “inside job” all along and it highlights Government security issues. The carelessness in which biological agents are handled as well as the lack of select agent accountability in government operated labs, period. Here is an excerpt from the LA Times concerning Bruce Ivins, the US Bio-Researcher who committed suicide allegedly after Federal authorities had informed his lawyer that criminal charges related to the mailings would be filed.
One executive who was familiar with the matter said that, as a condition of its purchasing the vaccine from the Army, VaxGenhad agreed to share sales-related proceeds with the inventors.
“Some proportion would havebeen shared withthe inventors,” said the executive, who spoke anonymously because of contractual confidentiality. “Ivins would have stood to make tens of thousands of dollars, but not millions.”
Two years after the contract was awarded to VaxGen, the pact was terminated when the company could not deliver its batches on schedule. The termination meant that VaxGen was not paid, nor were Ivins and his co-inventors.
Ivins also was listed as one of two inventors of another biodefense-related product that has won federal sponsorship.
According to their still-pending application for a U.S. patent, the inventors hoped the additive would bolster certain vaccines’ capacity to prevent infections “from bioterrorism agents.”
From December 2002 to December 2003, the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency committed $12 million for additional testing of the experimental additive. That research money was designated for Coley Pharmaceutical Group, which was developing the additive. The company was acquired last fall by Pfizer Corp.
So the Anthrax attacks were actually “Anthrax sabotage” for greed and the source of the attack was right under the Government’s noses for years. Ivins had a security clearance and access to more biological agents. We were being protected how? Has the unprecedented boom in biodefense research made the country less secure by multiplying the places and people with access to dangerous select agents?
And please tell me how this justifies a facility that will cost over $562 million in North Carolina to be build. Would that money not be better spent on genine public health issues, Select agent accountability System and accurate tracking methods? In lays the security issues I mentioned earlier.
And last but not least;
At the same time, I recognize that good people on both sides of this issue believe they’re right. Opponents of the facility sometimes cite a report released in May by the Government Accountability Office (GAO). This report criticized the NBAFconcept and the proposition that foot-and-mouth disease could be studied safely within such a facility. That conclusion was a shock to me, as the same kind of research is being done today in Canada and Australia. (In fact, the Canadian lab in Winnipeg, where U.S. samples would be sent in an emergency, is less than 50 miles from the U.S. border.)
The GAO report doesn’t tell the whole story, in my opinion. I was disappointed to find that the authors of the report misinterpreted some sources of information and misrepresented others.
Even though I don’t agree with the GAO report’s conclusions, I know that they are a source of concern for some people. Ultimately, it will be up to the federal government, including the Department of Homeland Security and the GAO, to determine if the NBAF is safe to build. I think it is, and if the government agrees, then we want it to be built here.
This dialogue really concerned me on many levels. Slenning is suggesting that the GAO has a agenda and that in their report entitled “HIGH-CONTAINMENT BIOSAFETYLABORATORIES “, “DHSLacks Evidence to Conclude That Foot-and-Mouth Disease Research Can Be Done Safely on the U.S. Mainland”, Dr. Nancy Kingsbury and Dr. Sushil K. Sharma misrepresented some sources and misinterpreted others. This leads back to my point concerning the attitude to the community at large as well as the opposition. The amount of hubris to suggest that somehow he and his colleagues know more concerning biocontainment than anyone else is insulting. In fact it’s bit like playing God. But I am sure that the author’s of the GAO report will be able to respond themselves once informed of the allegations.
In closing I would like for you to consider some information not previously disclosed to the public that has recently surfaced concerning the NBAF.
Some of the information is available in the National Bio Agro Defense Facility’s Feasibility Study which was recently obtained through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) by Russ Kick of The Memory Hole and made public via his website. The Feasibility Study was completed August 24,2007 before the NBAF Scoping Meeting in September 2007. More supportive documentation exists in the NBAF DEIS and was discussed at the NBAF DEIS meeting held in Butner, NC on the 29th. If you question the relevancy of the Feasibilty Study please go here and reference page 14 “Feasibility/Planning study is complete awaiting Final Report Submittal”
In addition to the eight original select agents listed on the consortium’s website . The Feasibility Study contains two new additions Avian Flu and Newcastle disease. See page 46 of the Feasibility Study under agents and Pathogen Status and I quote;
The primary objective of NBAF is to replace the mission of the PIADC facility and expand its mission as identified in HSPD 9. A list of potential FAD and zoonotic agents, their bio-safety classification, the intended research model (species) and primary mode of transmission are listed below.
Viruses listed are Foot- and-mouth disease, Classical swine fever Vesicular stomatitis viruses, Avian influenza, Rift valley fever, Newcastle disease, Nipah virus and Hendra Virus
When pressed at the DEIS meeting DHS said that yes the viruses would be present at the facility for “training” purposes and yet on page 161 of the Feasibility Study under “Program – Detailed Space List” Avian Influenza has 2 rooms dedicated to it with a total of 1344 square feet. It is a NEPA violation to not have this “new” viruses listed as part of the Environmental Impact Study or at least that’s what Jamie Johnson told us at the Creedmoor Town Hall meeting in February of this year. (audio from the town hall here )
The Infrastructure cost to the host state: From the NBAF Feasibility Study
From Page 13 – The Central Utility Plant (CUP) is not currently included under the project funds and is planned to be provided by the host site selected. The CUP may be included within the NBAF site or may be located externally to the site.
From Page 181 ENGINEERING, 5.2.1. Civil
This narrative describes the civil work items required for construction of the NBAF facility and its supporting infrastructure. Depending on the final site selected the civil scope of work could include site demolition, paving, water and wastewater service connections, storm water, and storm water detention. The location of existing utilities and condition of the site selected will determine which of the items above will be required. For budgetary purposes this report anticipates that the site may be prepped with all utilities run to within 5-feet of the buildings as well as the building pads being complete by the host site.
Page 245 – Steam and Chilled Water
The feasibility study has been developed based on the assumption that a Central Utility Plant (CUP) will be constructed as part of the NBAF to provide steam and chilled water services with all the required equipment and system redundancies. It should be noted that based on the site selected a portion of this utility maybe provided by the host consortium. Such services should include the redundancy and reliability provisions described above. The actual capacity and configuration of the CUP will depend on the reliability of the services provided by the consortium and will be coordinated after the site selection.
The NBAF will have a SCIF room which states for Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility. “There are SCIFsin the U.S. Capitol, where members of the U.S. Congress are briefed on military secrets. In U.S. nuclear labs, computers that store weapons data are housed inside SCIFs. Components of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, such as the new National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures Center (NBACC) (Click here to view a Power Point Presentation on the NBACC at Fort Detrick, Maryland) have or will have SCIFs.”
The NBAF will house an Insectary
From 2-2 of the DEIS
Supporting laboratory modules to include insectary spaces necessary to support the research. The BSL-2 insectary is for the combined functions of breeding, rearing, manipulating, and holding/incubating of arthropod vectors used in the research programs. Other insectary research spaces within BSL-3E and BSL-3Ag would be used for holding infected liveinsects or arthropods and for virus transmission studies to and from both infected and non-infected large animals and small animals.
I included this information for one reason, the consortium’s talking points not reliable information or education have been used to sell the NBAF to the community and North Carolina. Many State and Federal politician’s pushed the NBAF on the state North Carolina, especially the town of Butner. All the while the consortium only released bits and pieces of information to gain public acceptance. This is no better than disinformation and the root cause of the NBAF’s divisiveness within the community. An educated constituent would reject such a facility as well as a truly concerned political candidate. B.J. Lawson for example, who is running against David Price. BJ knows this isn’t the best for North Carolina and isn’t afraid to express it. Raleigh isn’t happy with the information or should I say the lack there of. They have received very little concerning the NBAF through the DEIS about their concerns regarding the placement of the lab and how it will affect their drinking water and Falls Lake.
Once again Slenning and the consortium have exhibited their hubristic attitudes toward the community and will probably not be swayed from their political stance, because they have a lot to lose like their credibility. They are now bound by their decision to involve themselves with this project and have no choice but to stand behind their thinnly veiled talking points and their repetative mantra of the community deserves to know the facts without revealing any for consideration, but I would like to remind them that hubris sunk the Titanic and it will sink the NBAF. I also think Slenning and the consortium have greatly under estimated this small community of survivers. We have battled for our lives, families, neighbors and community before and we are not about to stop now.