Archive for Monday, November 15, 2010

National Research Council says evaluation of risks for biodefense facility in Manhattan was incomplete

November 15, 2010, 11:07 a.m. Updated November 15, 2010, 6:20 p.m.


NBAF concerns

The National Research Council found several reasons the U.S. Department of Homeland Security underestimated the threat of a deadly disease, such as foot-and-mouth disease, escaping from the National Bio- and Agro- Defense Facility.

Those concerns include:

• Homeland Security failed to consider possible exposure to large crowds at the nearby Kansas State football stadium, sick and susceptible animals being treated at the College of Veterinary Medicine, and staff who move between NBAF and K-State’s other research facilities.

• The assessment did not include the daily maintenance and cleaning of the large animal pens inside NBAF. Animals infected by diseases at the high-security labs could release pathogens through the air or manure. This daily occurrence is much higher than Homeland Security’s estimate that NBAF would have 2.6 laboratory spills containing a virus each year.

• The design plans for NBAF did not contain redundant HEPA filters, which would purify the air coming out of the facility.

• Homeland Security was “overly optimistic” in how a disease would be controlled and eradicated. With roughly 9.5 percent of the U.S. cattle industry within a 200-mile radius of Manhattan, if foot-and-mouth disease were released from the NBAF facility, it would cause “a widespread and economically devastating outbreak,” the report found.

• The National Research Council questions Homeland Security’s assumption that if an outbreak were to occur among livestock, they would be able to cull 120 to 720 herds per day. The committee doesn’t believe the herds could be detected and culled at that rate.

• Homeland Security doesn’t have a system in place that could detect and respond quickly to a release of a dangerous disease. Manhattan also doesn’t have a facility that would isolate those contaminated with the disease or an expert clinician with experience in diagnosing and treating people exposed to these highly contagious diseases.

— An escape of a dangerous disease and an ensuing outbreak is “more likely than not” over the 50-year-lifetime of the National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility, according to a report issued by the National Research Council.

On Monday the National Research Council released its evaluation of how well the U.S. Department of Homeland Security assessed the risk of locating the federal research lab in Manhattan.

The committee called the DHS’s 417-page assessment incomplete, but also noted it was “a solid starting point.”

“(The DHS report) had many legitimate conclusions, but it was not entirely accurate or valid. It did not account for the overall risks associated for operating NBAF or for conducting foot-and-mouth disease viral research in Manhattan, Kansas,” said Ronald Atlas, the co-director of the University of Louisville Center for Health Preparedness who chaired the committee that wrote the report for the National Research Council.

Atlas went on to note that the assessment did not account for how the high-level biosecurity labs would operate, how dangerous pathogens might be released and which animals would be exposed to the disease.

Leaders in Kansas question the method the National Research Council used in its review, saying “it exaggerates risk to an extreme, nonsensical level that would call into question the entire American biocontainment research enterprise”.

So far, designs plans for the 500,000 square-foot NBAF are a third of the way completed. The facility, which will study the world’s most dangerous diseases, won’t be operational until 2018.

“I think a lot of things can be done between now an then to address whatever issues are out there, and this is very early in the process,” said Ron Trewyn, vice president of research for Kansas State University.

Tom Thornton, CEO and president of the Kansas Bioscience Authority, said the DHS’s risk assessment was a “living document” that would be updated as new data became available.

Millions in federal funding hinge on the National Research Council’s report. In agreeing to provide $32 million to plan for NBAF, Congress required the DHS to produce a risk assessment on NBAF in Manhattan. Congress also asked the National Research Council to review DHS’s report.

The committee, which agreed that a facility like NBAF was needed, was not tasked with determining whether NBAF should be built in Manhattan.

“It is up to policy makers to decide whether the risks are acceptable relating to construction and operating the NBAF in Manhattan, Kansas,” Atlas said.

Among the National Research Council’s top concerns was the threat that the deadly pathogens being studied inside the lab would escape and create an outbreak among livestock and humans. Based off of numbers provided in DHS’s report, the National Research Council noted it would be more than likely that a release would occur and cause an outbreak.

In particular, the National Research Council noted that the risk and cost of accidentally releasing foot-and-mouth disease from the facility was “significantly higher” than what the DHS assessment considered.

Using numbers from DHS, the National Resource Council calculated that there is a 70 percent chance over NBAF’s 50-year lifetime that the study of foot-and-mouth disease would lead to an infection outside the lab, which could result in a loss of $9 billion to $50 billion.

Jamie Johnson, director of the Office of National Laboratories for DHS, said the 70 percent number was misleading because it didn’t account for the mitigating measures that the DHS would take.

“Once you apply mitigation, it becomes a very low risk,” he said.

The Kansas congressional delegation also stated its concern that the review did not consider mitigation and safety plans the DHS said it would put in place.

“These efforts should not be discounted,” the six-member delegation said in a joint statement. “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.”

As more data and plans emerge, Atlas said that updated analysis could be needed to evaluate NBAF’s risks.

As for the money tied to the report, Thornton said that DHS’s submittal of the risk assessment starts off a 30-day clock after which $5 million will be released from the 2010 budget. Another $40 million is anticipated to come from Congress in 2011. And in 2012, Congress will consider substantially more funding for the actual construction of NBAF.


olddognewtrix 6 years, 9 months ago

A case of the cart before the horse withNBAF?

Richard Payton 6 years, 9 months ago

Dust in the wind all we are is dust in the wind - song by Kansas seems fitting!

lounger 6 years, 9 months ago

This - is -a -Ticking - Time - Bomb.........

Joe Blackford II 6 years, 9 months ago

Manhattan Mayor: "This is the due diligence that's been part of the project all along," Snead said. "Good, tough questions have to be raised and answers developed."

Yet the Mayor (a KSU employee) was on the Governor's blue ribbon panel tasked with bringing the NBAF to Manhattan & was unaware KSU's Colonels enabled the Anthrax Mailer to commit the first successful act of bioterrorism on the U.S. in 2001.

Safety & security protocols at NBAF will always be based upon what DHS was aware of Yesterday, the day before a disease escapes, or is intentionally released by a disgruntled employee.

DoD has plenty of S. Pacific islands where only those holding Top Secret - Sensitive Compartmented Information security clearances can get off the plane. So what IF it costs a few more $ Million to initially set up, it's the only SAFE means to study lethal diseases without risking destruction of agriculture, Kansas agriculture.

At NO point in the process to secure the NBAF have Kansans been informed of the following:

KSU's Colonels Nancy K. & Jerry Jaax & Col David Franz, former Commander of the US Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID), enabled & armed the 2001 ANTHRAX MAILER. The FBI found several plausible scenarios for how the USAMRRID employee of 19 years, Dr. Bruce Ivins, could have removed Anthrax due to lax security & safety protocols at USAMRIID. In 2003, the Army gave Ivins its highest civilian honor.

usnsnp 6 years, 9 months ago

you have to remember that most of the people as usual that are making the decisions will never be affected by them, they either do now live in Kansas or if they do are willing to take the chance. If a problem occurs all they will say I did not see it comming or blame the decision on somebody elsel.

olddognewtrix 6 years, 9 months ago

Two items that neverseemed to be considered:First the NBAF faciility is next door to a City-HUD low income housing facility,Flint Hills Place.. Second, immediately downwind of NBAF is Meadowlark Hills , a large retirement and elderly disabled facility.Are the poor and elderly expendible as possible targets of dealy pathogen releases?

Joe Blackford II 6 years, 9 months ago

When the Manhattan City Commission approved a KSU request for zoning change for the NBAF site last Sept, only I & 3-4 others spoke against.

Manhattan's Housing Authority reps Flint Hills Place. No rep from Meadowlark Hills was present. You have to remember ~ 60% of Manhattan knelt at the foot of Jon Wefald; the military are too preoccupied with Wars. Since ~ 2008, the local No NBAF in KS group wouldn't fill a typical McDonalds.

We called KSU Silo Tech back in 76-78, when I was a student. It's not a melting pot, most placed blind faith (no reference to Clapton, et al) in Jon Wefald doing what's best for them. No one doubts Jon knew nothing about Bob Krause's $3 Million memo of understanding with Coach Prince. The Manhattan Mercury is owned by the former KSU Attorney, Richard Seaton.

KSU Pres. Schulz is cleaning the skeletons out of Wefald's closet; but he was brought here to back NBAF. His main cred: he was behind Mississippi's effort to secure NBAF.

KSU, KBA & DHS sold KS a Pig in a Poke. This NAS report has been the ONLY negative to ever appear in a KS newspaper, unless you count this:

Shane Garrett 6 years, 9 months ago

To olddognewtrix: The KSU IH has done a wind study. Result: NO prevailing winds; as KSU sits in such a location that keeps the winds swirling. FYI.

TheEyeofUS 6 years, 9 months ago

  It’s a ticking time bomb….and the sad thing is NOTHING WILL BE DONE ABOUT IT. This facility is a direct result of the Nazi party because that is who the founders are, Nazi Scientist. In America the facility originated on Plum Island, a pork-chop shaped island off of Long Island, New York. Now, the bureaucratic policy makers, who WON’T be affected or infected by their decision, say to put it in Kansas. This type of facility has been blamed for a number of outbreaks including Lyme disease and the West Nile Virus.

  Far-fetched? Go to a map page on the internet and type in Lyme, CT. Zoom to it and scroll down a little ways and you will see Plum Island. What does this lab have to do with Lyme, CT? That is the FIRST location that Lyme disease was reported in 1975. I guess that is just a coincidence, that Lyme disease was first reported less than 20 miles from the Lab? Home Land Security is leading the charge. I don’t know how this place is going to make our home land any more secure. Please people, look into it, use your connections and STOP this crazy biodefense facility’s production.

Joe Blackford II 6 years, 9 months ago

No oletimer, DHS has said the NBAF will only be built to withstand an EF-3 tornado, that's certainly NOT any worst case scenario here in KS, is it?

See: Manhattan/KSU, Andover & Greensburg for EF-4 tornados in KS, if you need a trip down memory-loss lane.

Shane Garrett 6 years, 9 months ago

Do not worry. There are currently armed gaurds already on the ground. (A private security company) Although I am not sure what they are gaurding except maybe perhaps... the ground.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.