Archive for Friday, January 27, 2012

Kansas residents oppose plans for federal lab

January 27, 2012


MANHATTAN — Residents and college faculty in northeast Kansas said Friday they were worried health and safety would be threatened if deadly pathogens escaped from a new federal research lab.

They expressed their concerns during a field hearing held by a National Research Council committee that will be reviewing a risk assessment for the National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility. The $650 million lab would do research on deadly plant and animal pathogens, including foot-and-mouth disease, and critics said during the two-hour meeting that the risks outweighed the benefits of building it near Kansas State University.

“We don’t want to be guinea pigs,” said Sylvia Beeman of the anti-NBAF group Biosecurity for the Heartland.

The Department of Homeland Security hired a private firm last year to conduct a site-specific risk assessment of the planned lab, which would replace an aging facility at Plum Island, N.Y.

This is the second risk assessment. One finished in 2010 raised questions that led to further review of the lab and the plans for security measures to protect livestock and humans if pathogens are released.

Greg Baecher, a professor of engineering at the University of Maryland serving on the NRC committee, said members expect to receive the final draft of the latest risk assessment in February, review it and release their conclusions this summer.

“This committee is still in the process of deliberation. We’re in the process of information gathering,” Baecher said. “We’re here to listen.”

Torry Dickinson, a university faculty member, said the process of preparing for NBAF hasn’t been open and Kansas State employees have been afraid to speak out about their concerns, among them the effects of an accident and its impact on Manhattan residents living near the campus.

“Many faculty here at Kansas State are concerned that the risks are too high,” Dickinson said.

Kansas State faculty working at the Biosecurity Research Institute were asked about safety procedures in place at the facility, which is already beginning to transition research from New York to Kansas.

Stephen Higgs, research director at the BRI, said depending on the pathogen and experience of the researcher, training can take several weeks or several months before access is granted.

Landon Fulmer, policy director for Gov. Sam Brownback, told the four committee members taking comments, that NBAF was a case of where “politics meets science.”

He described the concerns raised by some in Congress about the safety of conducting research on foot-and-mouth disease or other deadly pathogens as “scare tactics” by those who don’t want the lab built in Kansas.

“If we don’t build NBAF, we put ourselves, our country and our livestock industry at much greater risk than if do build NBAF,” Fulmer said.


xclusive85 6 years, 1 month ago

So, Torry has problems with NBAF? I am not saying that concerns are not valid, but couldn't the writer of this article find someone with some expertise in biological research, or even engineering of research laboratories (or other buildings) to express concerns? Torry is a professor in women's studies.

Joe Blackford II 6 years, 1 month ago

Tom Manney Professor Emeritus, Physics, KSU, spoke regarding tornadic atmospheric pressure drop at a distance of 6K meters will be much greater than the standard the NBAF is designed to sustain to shield its pressurized lab areas = release of toxins (in turn distributed by the tornadic winds).

"A barometric pressure of 850 mb (25.17 inches) was recorded in a tornado near Manchester, S.D., which is likely the lowest pressure ever recorded in a tornado. "

Robert K. Schaeffer Ph.D., KSU Sociology, spoke re: unknown rise in insurance costs & availabiliity to citizens & businesses upon the insurance industry assessing losses once risks are estimated for a release (zoonotic = transmittal to humans; his insurance company dropped all policies in KS after a hail storm); property values following an accidental, or intentional, release?

Wefald lowered a cone of silence over the KSU faculty very early on voicing any opinion other than positive.

The proponents who spoke all stand to profit, in one way or another, from the NBAF coming to KSU. I'm sure that in no way clouded their judgement on the need for the lab here in Kansas vs. a DoD island in the S. Pacific (where we already have Top Secret - Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility islands. No one lands on the island without the necessary T S - S C I F clearance.

All employees at the NBAF will be conducting "dual use research."

"The Dual Use Research Program is a focal point for the development of policies addressing life sciences research that yield information or technologies with the potential to be misused to threaten public health or national security."

Not to worry, Google "David R. Franz" for a laundry list of the Fed Govt & KBA committees Franz serves on (DHS, NIH, USA Commander of the Anthrax Mailer); his direct involvement in bringing the NBAF to KSU; & his KSU alum creds:

Fellow Anthrax Mailer & KSU alums Cols (Ret) Jerry & Nancy K. Jaax

KSU has the brains & connections (Franz on committee advising DHS where to place the lab & declaring Plum Island unsuitable) to guarantee the NBAF came to KSU. That's why there is a high degree of skepticism that there was "transparency in the site selection process" to quote Sen. Sam Brownback.

gccs14r 6 years, 1 month ago

If they're insistent on having it in Kansas, it needs to be 100 meters underground with multi-stage airlocked access to the surface and a self-destruct mechanism. All of its water needs to be trucked in and its waste should be processed and destroyed on-site.

Clara Westphal 6 years, 1 month ago


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