N-BAF: Feds preparing biolab sale as TX-KS 'puss war' nears
By Greg Harman
band of San Antonian über-boosters are rattling they’ll be suing again
to try to wrest Homeland Security’s planned $500-million-plus National
Bio & Agro-Defense Facility away from Kansas. Safety be damned.
Some enthusiasm, it seems, truly knows no bounds.
You see, the U.S.
General Accountability Office reported last week that lab sites on the
mainland examined by Homeland Security are not as safe as an existing research location off Long
Island for the advanced research of virulent pathogens — “zoonotic”
pathogens able to jump back and forth between humans and non-human
The diseases studied are to include foot-and-mouth, as well as
- Classical Swine Fever (CSF)
- African Swine Fever (ASF)
- Rift Valley Fever (RVF)
- Contagious Bovine Pleuropneumonia (CBPP)
- Japanese Encephalitis (JE) virus
- Nipah Virus
- Hendra Virus
The GAO's findings suggest that expanding Plum Island, where research
into highly contagious foot-and-mouth disease has gone on for more than
50 years, makes more sense. However, with the Kansas site now
officially selected, the U.S. General Services Administration (the
Fed’s real-estate wing) is moving forward with plans to sell both the
Plum Island Animal Disease Center and the 840-acre island it sits on to
help reduce costs for the Kansas construction.
research operations at PIADC, which is under the jurisdiction of the
Homeland Security Department, are scheduled to move to a more secure
facility that has yet to be constructed in Kansas. Proceeds from the
island's sale are slated to off-set construction costs of a $500
million Biosafety level 4 facility - the only type of research lab
authorized to handle diseases that are communicable between humans and
"My hope of hopes is that it continues to be
used as a Biolevel-3 facility," [Southold Supervisor Scott] Russell
said, adding that any residential zoning is an unlikely scenario. "It
has all of the infrastructure to support research - perhaps we could
get a university program over there. But I can't suggest that my idea
is anything but a pipe dream."
As a U.S. Senator,
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asserted that Plum Island was
unsuitable for bio-defense work since the lab is located so close to
high population centers.
Homeland Security, unsurprisingly, has suggested the work would be no more dangerous if it were performed on the U.S. Mainland, selecting Manhattan, Kansas
, over San Antonio and a handful of other contenders back in January.
In a July 30 report, GAO researchers wrote in the poetically titled BIOLOGICAL
RESEARCH: Observations on DHS’s Analyses Concerning Whether FMD
Research Can Be Done as Safely on the Mainland as on Plum Island
economic analyses did not incorporate market response to an FMD
outbreak — which would be related to the number of livestock in the
site’s vicinity. They also did not consider the effect of establishing
a containment zone to control the effects of a national export ban on
the domestic livestock industry — which could have been used to
differentiate across NBAF sites. The analyses were constrained by
limited scope and detail. They did not incorporate worst-case outbreak
DHS did not effectively integrate all the critical
information from its analyses to characterize differences in risks
between the mainland and island sites. The lack of integrated analyses
raises questions as to whether the evidence DHS used to support its
conclusions adequately characterizes and differentiates the relative
risks associated with the release of FMD virus from site to site.
Finally, our review of the EIS also found that it did not address
hazards associated with large animals — a unique purpose of the NBAF.
We reported on these same risks in earlier testimony.
significant limitations in DHS’s analyses that we found, the conclusion
that FMD work can be done as safely on the mainland as on Plum Island
is not supported.
We’re hoping that when the U.S. House of
Reps’ Energy and Commerce subcommittee on oversight takes up N-BAF
again, they’ll not be too hasty to sell off Plum.
the spot a pass, fellas, at least until after Texas and Kansas politicians have finished repaying their respective legal communities for past campaign donations. Kansas has already
set aside a cool million to stave off the Texas pro-N-BAF coalition, according to one Kansas paper
Posted by gharman on 8/6/2009 1:47:23 PM
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