Tag Archive: Plum Island


A report released today by the National Research Council, solidified concerns brought forth by two grassroot, non-profits who opposed and fought the placement of the National Bio and Agro Defense Facility (NBAF) from being sited in North Carolina and Georgia. Both groups, the Granville Non Violent Action Team (GNAT) and AthensFAQ brought forth the same credible arguments presented in the NRC’s report. The report titled: “Evaluation of a Site-Specific Risk Assessment for the Department of Homeland Security’s Planned National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility in Manhattan, Kansas” (that’s a mouth-full) was completed by DHS in June 2010.

The NRC report finally sheds some much-needed light on DHS’s flawed methodology and skewed data the agency used to justify the NBAF’s risk to near-by communities and livestock populations.

Upon review of the DHS assessment, the National Research Council found “several major shortcomings.” Based on the DHS risk assessment, there is nearly a 70 percent chance over the 50-year lifetime of the facility that a release of FMD could result in an infection outside the laboratory, impacting the economy by estimates of $9 billion to $50 billion. The present Research Council report says the risks and costs of a pathogen being accidently released from the facility could be significantly higher. The committee found that the SSRA has many legitimate conclusions, but it was concerned that the assessment does not fully account for how a Biosafety-Level 3 Agriculture and Biosafety-Level 4 Pathogen facility would operate or how pathogens might be accidently released. In particular, the SSRA does not include important operation risks and mitigation issues, such as the risk associated with the daily cleaning of large animal rooms. It also fails to address risks that would likely increase the chances of an FMD leak or of the disease’s spread after a leak, including the NBAF’s close proximity to the Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine clinics and KSU football stadium or personnel moving among KSU facilities.

Matt DeGennaro of AthensFAQ sums the report up quite nicely, “WE TOLD YOU SO” (and all we had was Google). Critical thinking  suggest this report should lay to rest once and for all, the federally funded bio-hazard, right? No, not if the Kansas Congressional Delegation has its way.

“The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has chosen Manhattan as the site for the new NBAF. The construction of this cutting edge facility must move forward to safely conduct critical research to protect our nation’s agriculture sector and food supply. The National Research Council’s study is helpful to DHS as it continues in its design phase of the NBAF facility. We are also pleased that it confirms the importance of building a new NBAF to protect our nation. However, we are concerned that some of the findings do not seem to account for mitigation and safety plans that DHS has already said will be put in place. These efforts should not be discounted. We are confident this facility will be the safest research laboratory in the world and its mission is critical in order to protect our nation’s food supply.”

Absent critical thinking, politicos from the Kansas Congressional Delegation obviously can’t read !  U.S. Senator Pat Roberts knows first hand what an outbreak of FMD would do to his state. Sen. Roberts you see was the President of the U.S. during a government exercise known as Crimson Sky. Here is what he said about the mock FMD outbreak during a Senate Hearing ( To Review BioSecurity Preparedness and Efforts to Address AgroTerrorism Threats).

Senator ROBERTS.
Back in 2002, I joined an exercise held by the department called Crimson Sky. That was sort of a misnomer because it followed the experience of Great Britain in regards to their problems with their livestock herds. They used that method in regards in incinerating the animals, which is probably the worst thing you could have done, as we found out.
There wasn’t anybody else in town, so I played the role of President in this exercise, and it simulated the intentional introduction of foot and mouth disease in five different locations. By the way,the person who did that was from Iraq, at least in the exercise. The impact was incredible. In 6 days, if you do not detect the disease, that is when this or the effects of the disease first become obvious, and then it is too late. All of our exports stop. People in the cities discovered that their food doesn’t come from grocery stores, and panic set in. The markets went crazy.

Basically, we had States calling out the National Guard. That is when we had the National Guard in the States, not over in Iraq and in Afghanistan and everywhere else, setting up all sorts of border situations so livestock in Texas couldn’t go to Oklahoma; Oklahoma couldn’t go to Kansas; Kansas couldn’t go to Nebraska; etc.,etc. It got pretty rough except everybody finally realized that all of the States were involved and we had to do something.

As President, I stopped the movement of all livestock. The Secretary of Commerce said you couldn’t do that. So I fired him, and it felt very good. But it was absolute chaos and not only for 1 year and not only for livestock, but every crop. So if you talk about a real problem, that was a real problem.
So, Chuck, can you tell me are you still conducting these kind of exercises? You probably don’t want to have me play President, but at any rate, are we doing the exercises that we need to do in conjunction with your compatriots up there on the panel, and has that impacted the way you do business?

Senator ROBERTS. We had to terminate almost every herd in America. I mean that was the end result. It was an incredible experience when you really finally got down to the final answer to stop what was going on. We had to call out the National Guard and call out the military. Quite frankly, we ran out of ammunition. It was a mess, and then you had PETA on television, and I can’t describe the utter chaos that happened.

See folks this is the bottom line; Federal grant dollars have a way of creating amnesia. Here we have a person who knows first hand the economic damage caused by a mock- outbreak of FMD  in the state of Kansas but continues to push for the NBAF.  I don’t live in Kansas but if I did I’d be concerned, very concerned. Maybe real-life is too much for some people to believe, but when you involve their wallets everything changes, doesn’t it Sen. Roberts?

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In a Press Release this past week, Congressman Tim Bishop of New York stated that it is “highly unrealistic” that the sale of Plum Island (PIADC) at an “estimated value of $50-80 million could possibly cover the over $650 million cost of constructing NBAF”.

“Highly Unrealistic”? You think?  On what planet does the sale of a $50-80 million piece of  highly contaminated government property pay for the construction of a new $650 million facility?

First of all let’s not forget the  Congressional Research Service estimated back in 08′ that the clean-up of  Plum Island would top $100 million and that was their best estimate at the time.

Bottom line, DHS has toyed with the sale of Plum Island (PIADC) for almost two years now as noted in a previous post I wrote back in 08′, yet they (DHS) still have not completed a Congressionally mandated comprehensive risk assessment of the NBAF’s actual final design. Moreover, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has completed 4 oversight reports on High-Containment Biosafety Laboratories in the U.S.; two specifically analysing the methodology used to justify the research slated for Plum Island’s (PIADC) replacement the NBAF. Isn’t it past time for this Bush-era knee jerk, behemoth to disappear? It was and still is a bad  idea and;

Given our nation’s mounting budget deficits, many have questioned the wisdom of spending approximately $1 billion of taxpayer dollars to create a massive new research facility that would duplicate many of the functions currently served by Plum Island and other existing facilities.  

Congressman Bishop has the right idea, we should tell Price and the other members of the House subcommittee on Homeland Security we do not support this project. Why? Think of it this way, here we are three years into the project, now Kansas and DHS are pushing lawmakers for a biological TARP bail-out in the name of national security. Or is it really more about research grants and corporate profits? If you’re a critical thinker you already have the answer.

Just, where are those Teabaggers when you need them?

Remember NBAF? Thank you, GNAT! | Click to visit their website | NoBio.org

Source: Barton Kunstler, Ph.D | The Huffington Post

Earlier this year, during an audit of the nation’s largest Level-4 BioSafety Lab (BSL-4) at Fort Detrick in Frederick, Maryland, 9,220 vials of ebola, anthrax, botulinum, equine encephalitis virus, and other deadly germs were discovered in the proverbial dusty old storage area. No one even knew the vials existed and thus no one knows for sure whether any are missing.

But not to worry, according to officials. The vials were old and lost long before new documentation procedures were put in place. Besides, the lab is being expanded and updated with the latest security devices. Such reassuring mantras resound after every oil and chemical spill, radioactive discharge from nuclear power plant (more frequent than generally realized), black-market uranium sale, and mishandled nuclear bomb: “It may seem dangerous, but trust us – there wasn’t enough poison to hurt a fly and besides, we’re sure we recovered everything.”

Very likely – hopefully – at Fort Detrick they did. But the most important question remains unanswered: can any BSL-4, the labs with the deadliest, often highly contagious, bacteria and viruses, ever be truly fail-safe? After all, at some point that old storeroom in Fort Detrick was state-of-the-art. Human error applies not only to daily procedures, but to equipment that always seems so pristine when new. Proponents of BSL-4s argue that without these research labs we stand defenseless against a natural outbreak of disease or bio-terrorist attack. And, they say, the labs are so safe that the chances of a disease-spreading breach approach zero.

The problem is, neither of these assertions is strictly true. Vaccines against Level-4 Ebola and Marburg viruses have been developed in Level-2 labs by inserting their DNA into non-pathogenic viruses that can trigger immune responses just as definitively as the deadly pathogen. Scientists can therefore develop vaccines against deadly bacteria and viruses without actually handling the germs themselves. And the Level-4 labs may very well make our world more dangerous rather than safer and more secure. However modern and up-to-date a laboratory, it is still subject to human error, violence, neglect, and systemic breakdown. The Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) outbreak in Great Britain in 2007 was due, according to the British government’s inquiry, to “poor training and incompetence” and a “creeping degradation of standards”, while the 2001 outbreak was attributed by the government to an employee who smuggled out a vial of FMD from his lab.

Image: Plum Island's Lab 257

“Creeping degradation” is probably responsible for most industrial and infrastructural accidents. The case of Plum Island off the northeast coast of Long Island, New York, home to a now-closed Level-4 lab, illustrates the problem. Many believe Plum Island responsible for Lyme Disease, borne by deer swimming five miles from the island to the Connecticut coast near Lyme where the first outbreaks occurred. Lab 257 by Michael Carroll details how protocols and procedures at Plum Island eventually unraveled. Countless small oversights and flaws in equipment, procedures, and human judgment tend to build up over time to generate distinct vulnerabilities until an otherwise controllable opportunistic event spins out of control.

It is often claimed that BSL-4s have a flawless safety record, although the 9,220 recovered vials seem to undermine that claim. More importantly, only two Level-4 labs have operated in the United States until recently and their documentation has been in disarray, as Fort Detrick’s spokesperson admitted to explain how the vials went missing.

There is, in fact, no real documentation that BSL-4 labs have been operating safely. As with the oft-ignored low-level radioactive releases from nuclear power plants, small accidents can be ignored or covered up; it takes a major disaster to enter public consciousness. Recently, the city of Boston had to admit that the news of the infection of three BSL-2 lab workers in a lab had been suppressed by the lab and city officials. Mayor Menino assured us that if the public had been in danger, they would have told us sooner. Granted, Level-2 labs are not built to be foolproof and the diseases harbored there are far milder than in BSL-4s, but when infection at a BSL-2 is kept under wraps, would a more serious threat have been publicized, especially with no real emergency response mechanism in place in most communities?

According to the Sunshine Project, “Three Texas A&M University biodefense researchers were infected with the biological weapons agent Q Fever in 2006. The infections were confirmed in April of that year, but Texas A&M officials did not report them to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), as required by law. Instead, Texas A&M officials covered the infections up until now, illegally failing to disclose them despite freedom of information requests dating back to October 2006.” This was in addition to a brucella infection at the lab, news of which was also withheld from the public. In response to these events, the Center for Disease Control ordered the lab to shut down its bioweapons research, citing – in a detailed report issued August 31, 2007 – a host of violations of basic safety protocols at the lab. Other accidents at BSL-3s have recently occurred at the University of New Mexico (anthrax, 2003 and unidentified pathogen in 2004); Medical University of Ohio (2004, Level-3 Valley Fever); University of Chicago (2005, Level 3, possibly anthrax or plague); and UC Berkeley (2005, Level 3 aerosolized, weaponized Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever). From 2005-2006, University of Wisconsin at Madison (UW) researchers made and manipulated copies of the Ebola virus genome even though the federal government stipulates that such research must take place at a BSL-4. (It should be noted that Level-3 pathogens can be every bit as dangerous as Level 4s and include many of the more contagious germs; it’s just they’ve been shown to respond to antibiotics). All these cases occurred after 2001, when the through-the-mail anthrax attacks supposedly led to tighter security and more sophisticated protocols at BSL-3s and BSL-4s.

The dangers posed by biolabs often fly under the radar, but that may be changing. The General Accounting Office, in a report released this past September 21st, stated that the rapid – and often unregulated – proliferation of Level 3 and Level 4 labs places the public at significant risk. The public would do well to question the knee-jerk “security at all costs” policy of the federal government which threatens to build up stores of the world’s deadliest organisms across the United States. As for proponents’ arguments that the labs are absolutely safe and absolutely necessary, we shall address them soon in another post.

 

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A hearing slated for later today will examine the latest findings made by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) regarding the oversight and expansion of  high-containment laboratories in the United States. In their report, the GAO focused on the  Bio-Safety level 3 & 4 laboratories both operational and planned i.e. National Bio and Agro Defense facility (NBAF), for obvious reasons; these facilities conduct research on the deadliest most dangerous pathogens or select agents. Interesting enough, was GAO’s cited reason for the study; “public concern” regarding over-sight and accidental or intentional release of select agents.  In short, opposition to these facilities nation-wide has turned those  “living in the shadows” into activist, lobbyist and educators, all working to prevent or stop construction or expansion of the biolab slated for their area.

U.S. laboratories working with dangerous biological pathogens (commonly referred to as high containment laboratories) have proliferated in recent years. As a result, the public is concerned about the oversight of these laboratories. The deliberate or accidental release of biological pathogens can have disastrous consequences.

Ample evidence exist and experts agree that many incidents or accidents go “unreported and unrecorded”. Consider the Sunshine Project’s investigation into Texas A&M, Ed Hammond uncovered a serious incident that even the CDC; which regulates some of these facilities, missed. Texas A&M ended up paying a $1 million dollar fine for the incident but the findings by Hammond suggested that far more incidents are taking place than the public knows, which if left “as is” puts us all at risk. Consider the following from a report by the Congressional Research Office’s, Issues for Congress report released in June of this year.

The experts we spoke with also stated that it is highly probable that many incidents go unreported and unrecorded because of the lack of such serious consequences. Such underreporting represents lost opportunities to analyze and learn lessons that can provide a basis for continuing improvement and maintenance of laboratory safety.

We as a Nation cannot continue to ignore issues at hand with regard to the operation of  high-containment laboratories and their dual -use research. It is, pardon the pun a double-edged sword for all concerned but Congress must act on the recommendation of the GAO once and for all before it is too late. 

What the GAO found:

The recent expansion of high-containment laboratories in the United States began in response to the need to develop medical countermeasures after the anthrax attacks in 2001. Understandably, the expansion initially lacked a clear, governmentwide coordinated strategy. In that emergency situation, the expansion was based on individual agency perceptions of the capacity their highcontainment labs required as well as the availability of congressionally approved funding. Decisions to fund the construction of high-containment labs were made by multiple federal agencies in multiple budget cycles. Federal and state agencies, academia, and the private sector considered their individual requirements, but an assessment of national needs was lacking. Even now, after more than 7 years, GAO was unable to find any projections based on a governmentwide strategic evaluation of future capacity requirements set in light of existing capacity; the numbers, location, and mission of the laboratories needed to effectively counter biothreats; and national public health goals. Such information is needed to ensure that the United States will have facilities in the right place with the right specifications.

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Abandoned, Lab 257

Debate Over Facility’s Fate Rages On

Homeland Security gets an earful in Congress over a potentially risky move

Source: By Jennifer Landes ~ East Hampton Star

Concern in Congress over the transfer of research on live foot-and-mouth virus from the Plum Island Animal Disease Center to one of five mainland sites competing for a new agro-terrorism research facility might work in the East End’s favor, according to Representative Tim Bishop.

    “The ideal outcome for the East End of Long Island is that Plum Island remain a [Biosafety Level 3] facility, conducting its current research,” he said. “I believe we should keep that kind of research on an island as mandated under current law.”

    Last Thursday, the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce held a hearing on the potential move. Representatives of the Government Accountability Office were critical of the research that the Department of Homeland Security used to determine that moving such research to the mainland would not increase the risk of an outbreak. They read from their report on the research, which was released at the hearing.

    In a statement, Senator Charles Schumer said the report was “a troubling window into D.H.S.’s flawed decision-making process and shows that D.H.S. should have left Plum Island a Biosafety Level 3 research center studying animal and plant diseases. Instead, for suspect reasons, they created the false choice of closing it down or pursuing an unwanted and unwarranted Biosafety Level 4 facility, which the delegation and the community will continue to oppose.”

    Nancy Kingsbury, a research director for the accountability office, said at the hearing that the Department of Homeland Security “had not conducted or commissioned any study to determine whether foot-and-mouth disease could be studied safely on the mainland.”

    Instead, it used a study from 2002 that looked only at the feasibility of relocating the facility. “That’s a different question than if it can be done safely . . . there was no risk assessment,” and no study of the history of virus releases and the difficulties involved in the containment of large animals, she said.

    Although Ms. Kingsbury acknowledged that “location in general has no particular advantage” in whether a virus is released, “it can help in the control in the spread of pathogens.”

 

  The legacy of Plum Island Animal Disease Center is not one of promise and prosperity it is one of security breaches, enviromental releases and funding cuts. The funding and the grants will be of benefit to the business special interest, Academia and Universities not surrounding communities.  The community will be left with what New York residents are being left with, a dangerous bio hazard on a massive scale.  Ask yourself, Is the legacy of PIADC what you want for your children and  grandchildren? 

 The summary below is part of a petition. It outlines many issues that have not been part of the public debate. It appears here with the permission of the author,  Dr. Joseph Melamed,  Dr. Melamed recently had this to say about the lab, ” This is not a political, economic, or race issue. It is a public health issue”.  

Proposed National Bio Agra Defense Facility at Butner, NC 

  • In 2008 the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will determine where to relocate the aging Plum Island Animal Disease Center (PIADC) currently located on an isolated 840 acre island off the North Fork of Long Island in New York.
  • One of the five remaining sites under consideration is a federally owned farm in Butner, NC, located three miles from I85 near Lake Michie, the water supply for Durham and in the watershed for Falls Lake, Raleigh’s water supply.
  • The proposed facility will include a “BSL-4” laboratory, defined by DHS as one which studies “microorganisms that pose a high risk of life-threatening diseases for which there is no known vaccine or therapy.”
  • DHS states that “Examples of microorganisms that could possibly be studied in a NBAF BSL-4 lab include Nipah, and Hendra viruses, both of which are emerging zoonotic diseases that can spread from their natural reservoir to human beings, and are often fatal.”
  • Other diseases that could be studied in the proposed BSL-4 facility include: Ebola, Small Pox, various deadly hemorrhagic fever viruses, and weaponized versions of Anthrax.
  • According to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID) the NBAF organisms studied at the proposed Butner lab would include “…the world’s most dangerous microbes, several capable of rapid widespread human depopulation.”
  • A NC consortium promoting the facility along with local officials contend that the facility will boost the local economy and that it will be “leak proof” and completely safe.
  • Deputy Raleigh City Attorney, Dan McLawhorn, has filed objections to the funding and construction of the proposed germ laboratory in Butner, N.C. citing concerns over flow of wastewater into the watershed serving Raleigh.
  • To date, Butner city commissioners’ request for an informational meeting with DHS officials has gone unanswered.
  • The existing PIADC which the proposed facility will replace has a disastrous record of leaks and security breaches:
    • July 21, 1954 – Plum Island worker contracts Vesicular Stomatitis after exposure to an infected animal.
    • December 24, 1967 – The New York Times reports “Fatal Virus Found in Wild Ducks on L.I.”  A virus never before seen in the Western Hemisphere, which began with ducks on the North and South Forks of Long Island opposite Plum Island, spread across the entire continent by 1975.
    • 1971 – USDA proclaims that “Plum Island is considered the safest in the world on virus diseases.  As proof of this statement there has never been a disease outbreak among the susceptible animals maintained outside the laboratory on the island since it was established.”
    • 1975 – PIADC begins work feeding viruses to “hard tics,” including the Lone Star tic (now endemic to NY but before 1975 never seen outside of Texas) which is a carrier of Borelia burgdorferi, the Lyme Disease bacteria.  First cases of the disease later known as Lyme Disease reported in Connecticut and Eastern Long Island, both directly across form Plum Island.  Current epidemiologic data shows that epicenter of all U.S. cases of Lyme disease was centered at Plum Island, N.Y.
    • September 15, 1978 – News release: “Foot and Mouth Disease has been diagnosed in cattle in a pre-experimental animal holding facility at the Plum Island Animal Disease Center.”  A documented outbreak had occurred.
    • 1979 – Internal investigation of the foot and mouth disease outbreak uncovers massive widespread failures in containment systems at PIADC.  Committee report: “Recommend that Lab 101 not be considered as a safe facility in which to do work on exotic disease agents until corrective action is accomplished.”
    • 1979 – Disregarding the committee recommendation, the US Army undertakes investigation of deadly “Zagazig 501” strain of Rift Valley Fever at PIADC.  Sheep held outside of the lab that should have been destroyed as part of the containment policy following the foot and mouth disease outbreak were vaccinated with an experimental Rift Valley Fever vaccine, in violation of the lab’s primary directive prohibiting outdoor experiments.
    • 1982 – Federal review board begun after foot and mouth outbreak issues annual report: “We believe there is a potentially dangerous situation and that without an immediate massive effort to correct deficiencies, a severe accident could result… [L]ack of preventive maintenance, [and] pressures by management to expedite programs have resulted in compromising safety.”
    • 1983 – Six Plum Island workers test positive for African Swine fever virus.  Workers were not notified of their results.
    • 1991 – Federal government decides to privatize PIADC.  A New Jersey company, Burns & Roe Services Corporation, is the low bidder and is awarded the contract.  In order to cut costs, expensive safety and security measures are scaled back.
    • June 1991 – An underground power cable supplying Lab 257 at PIADC shorts out and is not replaced because there was no money left in the budget.
    • August 18, 1991 – Category 3 Hurricane Bob hits Plum Island knocking down overhead power lines connecting Lab 257 to its only remaining source of electricity, a generator at another location on the island.  Freezers containing virus samples defrost, air seals on lab doors are breached, and animal holding room vents fail.  The lab’s ‘fail-safe’ mechanism of ‘air dampers’ to seal off the facility also fail in the open position.  Melted virus samples mix with infected animal waste on the floor while swarms of mosquitoes fill the facility.
    • September 1991 – USDA denies that any system failures occurred during the hurricane.  Both workers in Lab 257 at the time of the blackout are fired.  Both later develop mysterious undiagnosed diseases.
    • 1992 – OSHA and EPA cite PIADC with hundreds of safety violations.  OSHA returned five years later and found that the violations had not been corrected.  At that time 124 new violations were found.
    • July 13, 1992 – While USDA continues to officially deny that any biological weapons research takes place at PIADC, fourteen Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army, and Pentagon officials visit Plum Island.  Internal documents indicate that the visit was “to meet with [Plum Island] staff regarding biological warfare.”
    • Early 1990s – PIADC annual report to Congress is eliminated.
    • August 1999 – First four human cases of West Nile virus ever reported in the Western hemisphere are diagnosed on Long Island, NY.  Horse farms, all within a five mile radius of one another, on the North Fork of Long Island directly opposite Plum Island, report horses dying following seizures.  25% of the horses in this small area test positive for West Nile virus.  Of the 271,000 equines tested in three states at the time of the outbreak only those on the North Fork of Long Island were positive.
    • 1999 – New York Postquotes USDA spokesperson: “…top security [at Plum Islands] does not mean top-secret.” In spite of this statement, attempts to obtain information on the inventory of viruses in storage at PIADC under the federal freedom of information act were denied on the basis of ‘national security.’
    • 1999 – A cold war era document is declassified proving that in the early 1950s twelve vials of weaponized Anthrax (enough to kill over 1 million people) were shipped to PIADC.  This revelation directly contradicts prior official statements to the contrary by government agencies.
    • 1999 – New York Timesreports that PIADC is quietly beginning to upgrade to BSL-4 status.  Public outcry prompts US Congressman Mike Forbes to intervene and funding for the project is killed in the 2001 federal budget.
    • July 2000 – New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) finds “very troubling” hazardous waste violations at PIADC prompting New York State attorney general to sue USDA.
    • July 2001 – Court approved consent order forces USDA to admit to sewage discharge violations.
    • September 2001 – Shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks someone begins sending weaponized Anthrax through the US mail, killing five people.  Genetic analysis showed that the dry Anthrax spores used in the attack originated from USAMRIID (Fort Detrick, MD).
    • Even though USDA continued to deny the presence of weaponized Anthrax at PIADC the FBI included the following questions in their polygraph tests of scientists under investigation: “Have you ever been to Plum Island?” “Do you know anyone who works at Plum Island?” “What do they do there?”
    • August 2002 – PIADC workers go out on strike to protest unsafe working conditions.
    • December 2002 – National Resources Defense Council names Plum Island “number 2” of 12 worst polluters in N.Y. and N.J.  A state senator on the task force comments: “What disturbs me is the consistent flow of misinformation….  I feel that some of the misinformation borders on a cover-up.  [I]t shakes the foundation of our very form of government.”
    • 2002 – Pakistani police arrest Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood, a nuclear physicist with ties to Osama Bin Laden, and Mullah Omar.  From his residence they recover material on Plum Island.
    • June 2003 – President George W. Bush transfers control of PIADC to Homeland Security.  Airspace over Plum Island remains unrestricted, and gates to Lab 101 are open and unguarded.
    • Leaks and security breeches have occurred at BSL-4 labs, not just at PIADC
      • 1994 – Virologist at Yale infected with Sabia virus (now designated as a BSL-4 agent).  75 other workers exposed.
      • 2001 – Multiple researchers infected with Plague at Rocky Mountain Lab in Montana.
      • April 2002 – Anthrax spores leaked at USAMRIID Lab (Fort Detrick, MD).  Researcher tests positive for Anthrax.
      • March 1, 2003 – A package containing West Nile virus explodes at a Federal Express building in Columbus, OH airport exposing workers.
      • June, 2003 – 113 vials of Anthrax, Brucelosis, Ebola, and other organisms uncovered during excavation of a toxic waste site at Fort Detrick, MD

Dr. Tindall of the Triangle Biotechnology Institute, spokesman for the North Carolina consortium promoting the NBAF, had this to say in response to various questions about the proposed Butner facility.

  • Question:On December 15, 2000 The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID) supported the construction of a new BSL-4 (Rocky Mountain Laboratory) because “…the RML campus is located in rural western Montana, well removed from major population centers.  The location of the laboratory reduces the possibility that an accidental release of a biosafety level-4 organism would lead to a major public health disaster.”  In light of this internal government document which recommends siting a BSL-4 lab in an isolated area to protect the public, how do you explain your consortium’s support for siting the proposed NBAF in Butner within a 50 mile radius of nearly 2 million people?
  • Answer:  The proximity of the Butner, NC site to the scientific resources of RTP, the NC State veterinary school, and the various university research centers outweighs the potential downside of locating the facility just outside a major population center, and in immediate proximity to the water supply for Raleigh and Durham.
  • Question:  What diseases would be studied in the NBAF BSL-4 lab if it comes to Butner?
  • Answer:  Only Nipah and Hendra viruses.
  • Questions:  Might DHS decide at some time in the future to study other BSL-4 agents such as Ebola?
  • Answer:  Yes.
  • Question:  The DHS website indicates that Foot and Mouth Disease is among the “diseases that would potentially be studied at the NBAF.”  But, Public Law 48-496 passed by the U.S. Congress in April 1948, states that “…no live virus of foot and mouth disease may be introduced for any purpose into any part of the mainland of the United States except coastal islands separated therefrom by waters navigable for deep-water navigation and which shall not be connected with the mainland by any tunnel….”  Given existing federal law, how could DHS bring foot and mouth disease to Butner, N.C.?
  • Answer:  They could not unless Congress changed the law.
  • Question:  According to the DHS website “There has never been a public exposure at a BSL-4 lab in the United States.”  Is that true?
  • Answer:  Yes.
  • Question:  What about a 1/21/2002 Washington Postreport which uncovered the loss of dangerous microbes including Ebola from Fort Detrick in the 1990s?  Or the deadly 2001 U.S Mail attacks with weaponized Anthrax originating from Fort Detrick?
  • Answer:  none.
  • Question:  When attempts were made to obtain information about Plum Island under the freedom of information act they were blocked for reasons of national security, even though USDA claimed that ‘top secret’ work was not taking place there.  Now that the U.S. is at war, we are living in a ‘post 9/11’ era and DHS has assumed control of the NBAF from USDA, it seems logical that research at the proposed Butner lab which is replacing PIADC would continue to be “classified” for reasons of national security. Will that be the case?
  • Answer:No classified research will take place at the NBAF.
  • Question:  According to the scoping materials, the final decision regarding bringing NBAF to Butner is to be made in Washington, D.C., solely by DHS officials.   If federal officials decide to bring NBAF to Butner, would people living near this facility have any mechanism to influence what goes on there?
  • Answer:  Yes.  There will be a local oversight board.
  • Question:  Can you give me some details about that?
  • Answer:  No.

We, the undersigned physicians, believe that the proposed NBAF poses a dire and unjustified health risk not only for the local population in Granville County, but also for the entire triangle region.  To date, the public has been poorly informed of the exceptional risk posed by this facility.  We believe it is our duty as physicians to educate the public so that they may protect themselves against this infringement of their right to remain safe in their own homes.

 

Also here is a  must read white paper on  Plum Island’s/ NBAF  Dual Use Research is a risk to Nation Security.

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