Archive for Friday, June 15, 2012

Officials press feds for NBAF

June 15, 2012


— Kansas officials pressed the federal government Friday to move ahead with construction of a new biosecurity lab near Kansas State University, even though a new, independent report suggested that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security still doesn’t have a good assessment of how safely it could operate.

The congressionally mandated report, from the National Research Council, described a favorable Homeland Security assessment in March as seriously flawed. The federal agency had suggested the risk of an accidental release of foot-and-mouth or another dangerous animal disease was minimal.

The $1.14 billion National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility would research dangerous animal diseases representing a threat to the nation’s food supply, and backers of the project say it’s vital to national security. Kansas officials also see the lab, with potentially several hundred high-paying jobs, as an engine of economic growth and an anchor for an emerging biosciences industry.

Congress set aside $90 million for DHS to build a new utility plant for the lab and continue work on the site in Manhattan but told the agency it couldn’t spend the money until the National Research Council finished its latest report. In a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, also Friday, the U.S. senators for Kansas and Missouri said “this final hurdle” had been cleared.

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback joined the state’s senators, Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran, in calling on Napolitano to release the funds. The letter also was signed by Missouri Sens. Roy Blunt and Claire McCaskill. All are Republicans except for McCaskill, but the lab has strong bipartisan support among Kansas officials, who’ve hoped it would be operating by 2018.

And Ron Trewyn, vice president of research at Kansas State University, said the new lab will face permitting and “rigorous” reviews by other federal agencies, so that further pre-construction safety assessments would accomplish little.

“It’s time to build the building,” he said. “It’s time to move forward.”

Kansas officials have worried about resistance in Congress to continued funding for the new lab, which would replace an aging one on Plum Island, N.Y.

U.S. Rep. Tim Bishop, a New York Democrat whose district includes Plum Island, said the latest report underscores the concerns that he and others have about “this billion-dollar boondoggle.” He promised to raise the National Research Council report as an issue with Napolitano and in Congress.

“It would be irresponsible to move forward with building this costly and controversial facility without fully understanding the risks associated with it,” Bishop said.

The National Research Council is an arm of the National Academy of Sciences, a private nonprofit group that advises the federal government. The council’s report Friday was the second time in two years that it had questioned a Homeland Security assessment of the risks associated with the new lab.

In 2010, based on Homeland Security’s own data, the council determined there was a 70 percent chance of an accidental release of a dangerous disease leading to an outbreak outside the lab during the facility’s 50-year lifespan. The DHS assessment in March — based on revised designs — said the risk was about one-tenth of 1 percent.

But the council’s Friday report called the March assessment “technically inadequate in critical respects.”

The council said Homeland Security overestimated the danger posed by tornadoes and earthquakes but underestimated the potential risks of a disease being released by human error. The report’s writers also said DHS failed to consider how multiple safety systems depend upon each other and can fail during a single event.

Gregory Baecher, a University of Maryland engineering professor and chairman of the report-compiling committee, stressed in a telephone conference call with reporters that the review doesn’t assess the safety of the planned biosecurity lab. Instead, it’s designed to tell policymakers whether the information provided by the most recent DHS assessment is reliable.

“We don’t think the analysis has been done well enough that any of these numbers are trustable as the basis for judging risk,” Baecher said. “Decision-makers in Congress or DHS or other places, we believe, still do not have an adequate scientific basis for knowing the risks associated with NBAF.”

But like Kansas officials, DHS spokeswoman Nicole Stickel noted that the report from Baecher’s committee also called the new lab “a critical asset” and said its designs are sound. She said the National Research Council’s findings will be incorporated into the federal agency’s plans.

“These efforts advance the planning for a safe and secure state-of-the-art biocontainment facility,” she said.


blindrabbit 5 years, 5 months ago

blindrabbit(anonymous) says…

The real advantage of originally placing the lab at Plum Island reveals that the thinkers at that time displayed much more common sense than is being used to site the new lab in Kansas.

Firstly, the prevailing wind at Plum is offshore; and since the island is just about as far east as you can get on the East Coast any airborne release will drift out over open ocean and not over 1,500 miles of populated US mainland. Just think why Japan located it's nuclear power plants on it's East Coast; most of the radioactive release following the earthquake/tsunami drifted out over the open Pacific.

Secondly, Plum Island is located far away from an area that would suffer greatly if a release of animal diseases were to be released. Why place a livestock disease testing facility right in the middle of livestock (cattle) production area. The release of hoof and mouth (like diseases) in Kansas would be devastating to cattle not to mention impact on human health. Several years ago a few contaminated cattle in Great Britian caused the cattle industry to almost be wiped out. Many thousands of cattle needed to be destroyed and the industry has been slow to recover.

Thirdly, at Plum Island most of the most dangerous work is carried out right in the high security controlled area. Access to and from the facility is highly regulated and the likelihood of terrorist activity is minimal because of it's remote location. The proposed location in Manhattan is very close to a populated city and is surrounded by private property where a terrorist could gain close access to the facility site. Also, much of the work at the proposed Kansas facilty is to be carried out by a variety of "subcontractors" located removed from the main lab. Does this mean movement to and from the main site will be over public roads/railroads with minimal control and great exposure potential. Just think of some nut bent on causing a release, how easy this might be with such an "open, loose" operating fashion.

Fourthly, placing the facitiy in an active tornado zone does not make sense. To protect from a potential tornado impact, much of the lab would need to be in highly fortified buildings (maybe underground); what about additional cost to achieve this security. Other natural impacts need to be considered as well including flooding, winter weather conditions and earthquake possibilities.

Hopefully, all of these potential impacts have been adequately studied and considered; my guess is that they have not, and the release of the recent independent report on site location seems to give evidence that this is the case.

JackMcKee 5 years, 5 months ago

Sammy has this. There's absolutely no reason for concerned.

Richard Heckler 5 years, 5 months ago

What is NOT being discussed is how much this "boondoggle" will cost local taxpayers. Nor how much will this cost the existing community if the jobs leave the current location.

This in reality is not new jobs for the USA. It is "job loser" for some community which is not good use of tax dollars. This is pork barrel for Kansas politicians who cannot seem to get it together to create a new industry for ADDITIONAL jobs for America as they have supported sending jobs abroad to communist China.

blindrabbit 5 years, 5 months ago

What gets me, the Kansas politicos are so eager to (1) build a outdated coal burning power plant in Holcomb, (2) build a oil pipeline (Keystone) that has potential for considerable damage if a spill were occurr in the area of the Ogallah aquifer. Incidentally, it is not Obama Administration that is opposed to building the pipreline, it is the State of Nebraska and it's well placed concern about routing through the Sand Hills and the aquifer that is holding up the project. (3) build the NBAF lab in Kansas even though many valid concerns have been heard, and it appears that many have not been satidfactorily addressed.

What we have is the potential for 3 large projects to be built, all of which have considerable health, safety and environmental issues. (4) yet the State and the lack of leadership of Roberts and Brownback has allowed the safest, long-term large industry (Boeing) to get away What's going on!

Joe Blackford II 5 years, 5 months ago

"The letter was also signed by Missouri Sens. Roy Blunt and Claire McCaskill. "

Well, D U H, Midwest Research Institute Global, is in KC, MO. Dr. David R. Franz is a VP of MRI, who runs a Govt. Owned, Contractor Operated lab in Fredrick, MD for MRI. Franz was also Commander, US Army Medical Institute for Infectious Diseases, from whom he got the "revolving door" contract to run the lab.

Franz sits on the DHS Science & Technology Advisory Committee, which labelled Plum Island as "antiquated." The committee advised DHS where to put a replacement lab. Wonder why KSU? Franz is an alum.

In 1999, Jon Wefald & Col. Jerry Jaax, "University Veterinarian," made a trip to Roberts' DC office to lay out their dream of an agriculture biosecurity lab. Who was Jaax' last Commander? Franz.

In Oct. 2001, Jerry Jaax was in Topeka explaining the term "bioterrorism" to the KS Legislature.

Suddenly, the National Institutes for Health had to "coin" a new term for research where your employee could do positive science research for its citizens, or turn that same knowledge against a country in the form of terrorism.

Who was the only successful bioterrorist on US Soil? Franz' employee @ USAMRIID, Dr. Bruce Ivins. He won Army's highest civilian award in 2003. He also killed 5 people by mailing Anthrax in 2001. The FBI announced in Aug. 2008, that Ivins had committed suicide.

Col Franz has too many conflicts of interest: member of the Kansas Bioscience Authority (recall the forensic audit found that Franz did not vote to give MRI, his employer, > $450K, $200K for "NBAF as a GOCO Strategy"); his position advising DHS; and his employer, MRI.

How much $$$$$ have we traded for the beans of the magic NBAF beanstock, in exchange for a "Pig in a Poke" hazardous lab for the next 50 years? Any chance the GOCO contract $ will flow to Missouri, leaving KS with taxes on the new residents, who are simply transfers from other MRI labs? Those contract employees can be transferred with Top Secret - Sensitive Compartmented Information security clearances from other MRI-run labs.

This was no "opportunity" stumbled upon by a "competition" with 5 other sites. Not when KSU's "ringer" was behind the entire process.

Google: Ivins NBAF Franz

Paul Wilson 5 years, 5 months ago

Plum Island by Nelson DeMille, Great book.

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