Bio- and Agro-Defense facility discussed
Bio-defense in Kansas
- Manhattan's finalist status for biodefense lab site spells potential for KU (08-11-07)
- Comments to play role in location of biodefense lab (08-07-07)
- Bioscience leader touts need for more research funding (07-17-07)
- State faces stiff competition during bid for defense facility (07-15-07)
- Research lab would employ strict security (07-13-07)
- Questions, answers about Kansas' quest for lab (07-12-07)
Manhattan More than 250 people gathered Tuesday at a public hearing on a proposed $450 million Homeland Security biodefense laboratory that could be built in Kansas.
Most expressed support for the project, while some opposed it and others sought more information.
"No matter where it is built, it will be safe and secure," said James Johnson, Homeland Security's program manager of the proposed National Bio- and Agro-Defense Laboratory, or NBAF.
But Sylvia Beeman, a resident of Manhattan for 30 years, raised questions about the safety of transporting viruses to the lab, while others wondered whether the lab would make Manhattan a target for terrorists. Johnson said the lab would not raise the threat of terrorism in the area.
"You're asking us to take everything on faith," Beeman said. She noted that the federal government told the residents of New Orleans that their levees were safe prior to the devastation from Hurricane Katrina.
But many spoke in support of the lab as necessary for national defense, and that Kansas State University would be a perfect spot for it.
"There really is broad support for your proposal," said Lt. Gov. Mark Parkinson, who led a procession of Democratic and Republican officials speaking in favor of the proposal.
The public hearing was conducted by Homeland Security as part of that agency's assessment of the K-State location, which is one of six proposed sites across the nation.
The other sites still in the running are San Antonio; Madison County, Miss.; Athens, Ga.; and Granville County, N.C. Plum Island, N.Y., which is home to the current Homeland Security lab, is also considered an alternative, officials said, although it would have to be upgraded.
For an hour before the hearing, Homeland Security officials, scientists and consultants met one-on-one with those attending the hearing to answer questions and provide information.
The lab will be a top-security facility where scientists will conduct research on plant and animal diseases, including those that could affect humans.
K-State has offered Homeland Security the use of its new bioresearch lab while the federal government build the 500,000-square-foot NBAF.
Jerry Stack, director of the new bio lab at K-State, said NBAF was needed to help combat potential biological threats.
In today's global society, "The opportunity for new pathogens is great and the rate at which they can travel is frightening," Stack said.