Carolina group backs away from new lab

A North Carolina group is backing away from actively supporting siting the proposed $450 million National Bio-and Agro-Defense Facility in that state. Georgia, Kansas, Mississippi and Texas are also in the competition.
The federally funded lab would be designed to identity and research the most dangerous pathogens that infect, or are transmitted by, animals and plants. The project would involve building high-security laboratory space along with advanced computer support networks for data analysis and storage to integrate animal research into national security.

The Homeland Security Department earlier this month named locations in the five states as finalists for the national animal disease laboratory to replace the Plum Island Animal Disease Center in New York. Construction on the new facility is expected to start as early as 2010.

The North Carolina Consortium for the National Bio- and Agro- Defense Facility, which had been the chief supporter of the Butner, N.C. proposed location for the lab, is now reevaluating its support.

While the consortium members continue to back North Carolina’s application for the research lab they are no longer actively advocating the state’s application by doing public education or outreach on it, said David Green, a spokesman for the organization.

“We want the DHS to still consider us,” Green said, “But we will no longer do outreach and public education on the program.”

Consortium members are concerned that members of the Butner, N.C. community claim that their worries about environmental effects and about the potential risk of pathogen release from the lab are not being adequately addressed, Green said.

As a result of those concerns, the consortium “continues to evaluate its position,” the group said in the statement released Aug. 8.

“The NCC-NBAF believes strongly that the NBAF program would help protect the U.S. livestock industry, enhance public health and bring significant economic benefit to the Granville County region. However, the consortium remains concerned by claims from citizens and elected officials that DHS has not adequately addressed their concerns,” the consortium's statement reads.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.


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