US National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility - Concern at decision to move from Plum Island to Kansas
September 2013 ~ An avoidable mistake to sell off this excellent laboratory.
Plum Island Scientists created the first vaccine for foot-and-mouth disease that can be manufactured on U.S. soil. Infectious animal diseases have been studied on the island, 100 miles east of New York City, since 1954. Yet five years ago, Congress voted to close the laboratory and sell the island off, hoping that proceeds from the sale would help with meeting the cost of moving the vital work of research to a new laboratory at Kansas State University. US Congressman Tim Bishop, who recently announced the introduction of "Save, don't sell Plum Island", a bill designed to overturn the congressional mandate for the federal government to sell the island, says that the proposed Kansas research facility would
"duplicate many of the research functions currently served well by other research facilities, including Plum Island"and would turn out to be unaffordable given the financial difficulties faced by the US and the rest of the world. In spite of concerns about risks to livestock and human populations, especially in the event of natural disaster, if highly dangerous and infectious animal diseases are studied in the heart of livestock country, moat now consider the move a foregone conclusion.
The Plum Island facility has been well maintained, more than 23 million dollars in federal funds have been invested in laboratory upgrades since January 2012 and there are planned additional significant expenditures.
US Rep.Joe Courtney has said, "Why you would want to move a research facility 4 to the heart of production is beyond me."
September 2013 ~ Plum Island is considered to be one of the richest natural resources in the Northeast.
As the Hartford Courant remarks: "Plum Island in Long Island Sound is a remarkable place, both ecologically and scientifically. It should be made into mostly a national wildlife preserve rather than be auctioned off."
The 843-acre Plum Island itself includes eleven miles of largely undeveloped Long Island Sound shoreline where 57 rare bird species and 16 rare plant species live undisturbed. Rich pickings, when the Plum Island Animal Disease Center leaves, for developers - in spite of vaguely worded reassurances in the Sale of Plum Island EIS_Record of Decision (pdf)
September 2013 ~ "I'm the mayor in the sense that I'm the face of Plum Island"
Dr. Larry Barrett, oversees everything at the Plum Island Animal Disease Center in New York. Here, he is quoted: ..
" The public has a misperception of Plum Island, but at the same time science doesn't do a great job at public relations. We're not doing anything secret...We're trying to protect the country. "In August, the US Congressman, Tim Bishop,announced the introduction of "Save, don't sell Plum Island" a bill designed to overturn the 2008 congressional mandate for the federal government to sell the island. Mr. Bishop said the proposed Kansas research facility would "duplicate many of the research functions currently served well by other research facilities, including Plum Island" and would turn out to be unaffordable given the financial difficulties faced by the US and the rest of the world. He insists that the Plum Island facility has been well maintained. and adds that more than 23 million dollars in federal funds have been invested in laboratory upgrades since January 2012, with additional significant expenditures likely in the future. He said: "If the federal government did not already own Plum Island, it would be seeking to purchase it for conservation."
August 25th 2012 ~ The Senator for Kansas wants the work to continue
Senator Pat Roberts has been speaking about the NBAF facility. He is quoted at cattlenetwork.com. He said in the "next few weeks" more options surrounding funding of the NBAF will be discussed. No mention seems to have been made by the senator of vaccination plans or rapid diagnosis if the US suffers an outbreak of FMD. Instead, and rather chillingly, he talked about "the importance of law enforcement in this whole scheme". Read in full
August 24th 2012 ~ Concern for the long-term future of the Plum Island Animal Disease Center and its vital research
A recent National Academy of Sciences report says that research into foot-and-mouth disease must continue -- at least until the planned new National Bio and Agro-Defense Center facility in Kansas opens. Construction there has been on hold for some time owing to the credit crunch and the most optimistic date for its opening seems to be 2020.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO report) questioned the choice of location in a July 2010 draft report for being on the mainland U.S., unlike the current Plum Island facility. It said the Department of Homeland Security ad relied on a rushed, flawed study to justify its decision to locate the $700 million research facility in a tornado-prone section of Kansas and that its assessment of the risk of accidental release of toxins on mainland locations, including Kansas, was based on "unrepresentative accident scenarios," "outdated modeling" and "inadequate" information about the sites.
At present FMD research continues to be conducted by scientists on Plum Island
"Observations on DHS's Analyses Concerning Whether FMD Research Can Be Done as Safely on the Mainland as on Plum Island" says a leak could cause at least a $1-billion worth of damage.
(More warmwell posts on Kansas and Plum Island here)
June 5th 2012 ~ "Construction of an ambitious National Bio and Agro-Defense Center in this Kansas university town is on hold due to the federal budget crunch"
Thanks to the FMD news service of the University of California, Davis, we learn that the Chicago Tribune reports
"The site of a proposed facility to fight animal diseases, including those which could be spread by bioterrorists, is little more than a parking lot today because of safety and budget concerns. Construction of an ambitious National Bio and Agro-Defense Center in this Kansas university town is on hold due to the federal budget crunch and concerns about risks to livestock and human populations, especially in the event of natural disaster. Animal illnesses studied at the facility would include the highly contagious foot-and-mouth disease as well as the Nepha and Hendra viruses, swine fever and the Japanese encephalitis virus. The United States has not had a outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease since 1929."read in full
February 14th 2012 ~ US. budget proposal "raised new doubts about the future of the National Bio- and Agro-Defense (NBAF) Facility under construction near Kansas State University."
In April 2011 we learned that Congress had approved $40 million to begin construction on the controversial National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility in Manhattan, Kansas, but that the building was not expected to be completed until 2018. We have followed this controversial issue since May 2008 when it emerged that the DHS had not conducted any studies to determine the wisdom of moving FMD activities away from Plum Island, using instead an existing study that did not clearly support such a move. A GAO report at that time concluded that an island location could help prevent accidents as that at Pirbright in 2007: the spread of FMD virus along terrestrial routes.
We now learn from www.dairyherd.com that project to replace the aging facility at Plum Island, N.Y.would cost an estimated $650 million. President Barack Obama's federal budget, announced on Monday, recommends that no new funding be allocated for the construction of the new biosecurity lab.
"The budget proposal raised new doubts about the future of the National Bio- and Agro-Defense (NBAF) Facility under construction near Kansas State University. Congress appropriated $50 million of the $150 million the Obama administration requested for NBAF in the current budget year, which the White house says is insufficient to begin construction...In light of this, the Administration will conduct a comprehensive assessment of the project in 2012, which will consider the cost, safety and any alternatives to the current plan that would reduce costs and ensure safety" .....(Thanks to the FMD news service of the University of California, Davis, and to Gary in Kansas.)
The construction of NBAF in Manhattan is not without critics, however. At a hearing last month, some Manhattan-area residents and university faculty expressed concerns about the posibility that deadly pathogens, such as foot-and-mouth disease, could be released accidentally from the lab and damage agriculture. ...." Read in full.
April 28th 2011 ~ "It has never been fully explained why a new lab could not be built on the existing Plum Island on Long Island, NY"
It is interesting to read the opinion of Patricia Doyle, PhD at www.rense.com
"....Why was it necessary to move the facility, scientists etc, to Kansas. I understand they did not want to refurbish the existing research facilities at Plum Island East, but why not simply build a new facility on the island? Building a new facility in Kansas will be as costly, even more so because they have to buy property for the facility.Read in full
Are they going to be working on pathogens so deadly that an escape near a major international City and airport would get the world's attention? Manhattan, KS is not as densely populated as New York City and environs and thus, a deadly disease would spread like wildfire in such a setting...."
April 16th, 2011 ~ New facility now expected not to open until 2018 .
On Friday, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback thanked members of the Kansas congressional delegation in helping to secure the money for construction of the new "Plum Island" www.examiner.com reports:
Congress approved $40 million, as part of the 2011 continuing resolution passed this week, to begin construction on the somewhat controversial National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility in Manhattan, Kansas. ...President Obama included $150 million in his 2012 fiscal budget.The article adds that "The National Research Council has warned that an accidental or intentional release of hoof-and-mouth disease from the facility could have a dire effect on the nation's cattle industry, but federal authorities have pushed ahead, saying the dangers are manageable."
The new facility, which will conduct research about deadly and highly infectious animal diseases, is now expected to open by 2018. However, work there will commence while construction is ongoing.
The new BSL-4 facility at Kansas State University will replace the aging and ever full of conspiratorial stories facility, Plum Island Animal Disease Center just miles off of Long Island...."
October 9 2009 ~ Plum Island will be offered for sale in about six months, according to an official with the U.S. General Services Administration.
See libn.com "Congress last year approved a public sale of the 840-acre island, located about four miles northeast of Orient Point. Funds from selling the Plum property will go towards construction of a $500 million National Bio- and Agro-Defense lab in Manhattan, Kan., according to the Department of Homeland Security, which took control of the island in 2003. The Department of Agriculture built the animal disease center on the island in 1954 to create vaccines for foot-and-mouth disease, which affects livestock. Construction on the new complex in Kansas is expected to begin next year."
October 8 2009 ~ Biodefence centre in Kansas - no early construction money
The proposed new foot-and-mouth disease research lab in Kansas to take the place of that at Plum Island (New York) was to be given money to start construction work. Now, the money is being withheld because congressional negotiators want the Homeland Security Department to produce new studies to indicate whether the lab can operate safely. In its draft report in July, the US General Audit Office said that the Department of Homeland Security's review was too "limited" and "inadequate" to decide that any mainland labs were safe, adding that the agency's assessment of the risk of accidental release of toxins on mainland locations, including Kansas, was based on "unrepresentative accident scenarios," "outdated modeling" and "inadequate" information about the sites.
There has been opposition to moving foot-and-mouth research to the mainland from Plum Island - not least from farmers in Kansas who told this website that the real livestock producers of Kansas were never given much opportunity to make known their own concerns to the Governor's Task Force.
A detailed report about the compromise spending bill can be read at www.victoriaadvocate.com
September 18 2009 ~ Pre-construction work contract has already been awarded
The Department of Homeland Security announced on Friday that a contract for pre-construction work has been awarded for the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility planned for Kansas. We read at www.nebraska.tv that "some in Congress don't want the money spent on the lab until the government finds out more about the risks of moving foot & mouth disease research from an island off New York to Manhattan, Kansas. The disease could wreak havoc on the domestic livestock industry if accidentally released." See also www.capitalpress.com Extract: "the GAO asserts Homeland Security "did not incorporate worst-case outbreak scenarios," including the effectiveness of a containment zone "to control the effects of a national export ban on the domestic livestock industry." ..."
September 3 2009 ~ recommendation to phase out Plum Island "essentially a rush job" says U.S. Rep. Tim Bishop (D-N.Y.)
Responding to GAO's report he wants DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano "to revisit the decision" as well as the decision to build the Kansas facility. "This (GAO) study underscores the validity of why Plum Island was originally chosen," Bishop says. "I'm sobered by this report. ... We still have time to correct this." But the DHS has defended its choice with a report of its own.
"Despite a critical report from another agency and a fair amount of political pressure, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) remains committed to the Manhattan, Kan., site it chose for building a new national bio-defense research laboratory and says it won't re-open the site-selection process.Read in full
....a release of the FMD pathogen by a tornado, terrorist act or other means reportedly could have a much greater economic and disease impact than in offshore New York. Such an event on Plum island could have a $31 million economic impact, compared to a $1 billion impact in Kansas, the GAO report says, citing another study. "Given the significant limitations in DHS's analyses that we found, the conclusion that FMD work can be done as safely on the mainland as on Plum Island is not supported," the GAO report says.
But DHS shot back, in a 30-page response in July, that the GAO study didn't respond to what Congress asked. Instead of evaluating whether FMD research "can be done safely on the mainland," the GAO instead chose to evaluate whether the research "can be done as safely on the mainland as on Plum Island." DHS says its own environmental-impact study took into account the GAO's point that the water barrier around Plum Island would provide an extra layer of protection in the event of an accidental release of the FMD pathogen, but it called that scenario "extremely unlikely," adding that "while the study of contagious diseases anywhere is not without risk, modern bio-containment technology makes the likelihood of an accidental release of a pathogen extremely low, and ... has eliminated the need for locating animal-disease research on an island as was done decades ago." ..... A group of Texas business and bioscience experts sued DHS in a federal court over the decision to locate the NABF in Kansas, but a judge dismissed the suit in July, saying it was based on hypothetical claims and thus not "ripe" for judicial review, although the suit could be re-filed later. .."
August 1 2009 ~ Homeland Security Secretary, Janet Napolitano, is urged to "revisit the decision to phase out Plum Island"
The GAO study says, "Given the significant limitations in DHS's analyses that we found, the conclusion that FMD (Foot and Mouth Disease) work can be done as safely on the mainland as on Plum Island is not supported." www.newsday.com quotes congressman Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) who has written to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano: "This study underscores the validity of why Plum Island was originally chosen. I'm sobered by this report."
A Homeland Security spokesman did not return a call for comment. Read in full
July 27 2009 ~ The Department of Homeland Security "relied on a rushed, flawed study" to move FMD research from Plum Island to Kansas, says the GAO
The Washington Post today reveals that the Government Accountability Office's study says that the US Department of Homeland Security's analysis was not "scientifically defensible". In its draft report, the GAO, the congressional watchdog, says that the DHS's review was too "limited" and "inadequate" to decide that any mainland labs were safe, adding that the agency's assessment of the risk of accidental release of toxins on mainland locations, including Kansas, was based on "unrepresentative accident scenarios," "outdated modeling" and "inadequate" information about the sites. UPDATE A Kansas farmer writes to warmwell.com today that the real livestock producers of Kansas were never given much opportunity to make known their own concerns to the Governor's Task Force:"..in fact, they were purposefully omitted from that group..." (read in full)
July 28 2009 ~ Google news results for today's news items on this subject.
January 16 2009 ~ Concern at decision to move from Plum Island to Kansas
The Department of Homeland Security has given "final approval" to building the 450-million dollar US National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility in Kansas. Plum Island Animal Disease Center will close in 2015 -- unless, says www.newsday.com
"Long Island officials can persuade the Obama administration to overturn it... "As we said in July, Plum Island has been successfully operational for fifty years, is protected by more than a mile of water, and the area is home to very few animals that could catch disease - the Homeland Security report acknowledged this. Kansas on the other hand is considered to rank third in economic importance to the U.S. live cattle industry.
The recent GAO report "GAO-08-821T High-Containment Biosafety Laboratories" ( warmwell's html version concluded that an island location can help prevent what happened in the UK in 2007: the spread of FMD virus along terrestrial routes (by vehicles splashed with contaminated mud, for example) and also perhaps airborne transmission..
"...A recent release from the Pirbright facility - located in a farming community on the mainland of the United Kingdom - highlights the risks of a release from a laboratory that is in close proximity to the susceptible animals....The report reveals too that the DHS had not conducted any studies to determine the wisdom of moving FMD activities away from Plum Island, using instead an existing study that does not clearly support such a move.
- ....human error can never be completely eliminated ...accidents, while rare, still occur because of human or technical errors. Given the non-zero risk of a release from any biocontainment facility, most of the experts we spoke with told us that an island location can provide additional protection. ...."
A press release from R-calf USA a national, non-profit organization, today expresses depp concern,
"What is disheartening about Monday's announcement is that the deadline for comments from the public on the Manhattan Campus Site's Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) was midnight on (Monday) Jan. 12. This tells us in no uncertain terms that the bureaucrats already had made up their minds to approve the Kansas location and chose to blatantly disregard any concerns the public may have submitted in formal comments. Only time will tell what sort of political favors were involved in this unsuitable decision....."
6 August 2008 ~ Continuing deep concern about the siting of the US National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility on the mainland
US Congressman, Brad Miller, is quoted at www.indyweek.com:
".... sober, serious concerns about the facility that DHS (i.e. Department of Homeland Security) has not satisfied.
If democracy means anything, local elected officials speak for the people of their community, and local elected officials in Granville County now oppose bringing the facility to Butner. ...
I continue to believe that we must do the research that would be conducted at the proposed facility to protect public health and our food supply, whether at the current location at Plum Island or elsewhere, and that wherever the research is done it must be done safely."
July 6 2008 ~ "Plum Island is the clear choice for the NBAF, and Homeland Security should opt to build it there."
Many thanks to FMD news for alerting us to a link on the subject of the proposed new high-security $451 million laboratory in the US that is to replace the world famous but ageing laboratory at Plum Island. www.onlineathens.com David Lee, University of Georgia's vice president for research is quoted as saying he favours ".. building the NBAF on Plum Island if that New York location is the safest place for it.
"If DHS believes Plum Island is truly going to be significantly safer, they should choose to build it there. I believe it would only be incrementally safer."Plum Island is protected by more than a mile of water, and the area is home to few livestock that could catch the dreaded, highly contagious foot-and-mouth disease - facts noted in the Homeland Security report. "It would be irresponsible and basically abuse of trust in the government" to build it elsewhere, he said...." Read in full .
June 23 2008 ~ "if foot-and-mouth does get out, what does that mean to these sites?"
In the US, there are still 5 potential locations for the new high-security $451 million laboratory that is to replace the world famous laboratory at Plum Island. If the lab is built in the middle of land where susceptible animals are grazing, what happens in the event of a leak such as happened at Pirbright in 2007? The sixth option would be, of course, to build the new research lab on Plum Island itself.
According to the Associated Press on the subject of the 1,005-page Homeland Security Department report, it is calculated that
".... economic losses in an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease could surpass $4 billion if the lab were built near livestock herds in Kansas or Texas... That would be nearly $1 billion higher than the government's estimate of losses blamed on a hypothetical outbreak from its existing laboratory on Plum Island, N.Y.....The threat from fire and explosion would be diminished for the government's isolated laboratory on Plum Island "due to the low likelihood of any disease getting off of the island...."
Monday 8 June ~ "... if the lab comes to Kansas it will be surrounded by agricultural production.." says professor at Kansas State
Kansas State University (like Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina and Texas) is still very keen to have the National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility, the $451 million lab that is to replace Plum Island. According to www.kansas.com a decision on the site is expected later this year, and the new lab could be operating by 2013. The head of the university's Political Science Department, is quoted: "... There are a few people with qualms about it."
Before it happened in 2007, few had any qualms about a possible virus escape at Pirbright - but the GAO report seems ready to learn the lessons of that traumatic episode - as see below.
". ... there will always be some risk of a release from any biocontainment facility, most of the experts we spoke with told us that an island location can provide additional protection..."It seems to many of us incredible, that the US, like the UK, seems unable to let go of the mindset of mass kill in the event of FMD. But a reluctance to use available technology to protect and prevent means that an escape from a mainland lab could, as at Pirbright, be disastrous for the animals and farmers in the vicinity and beyond. (More on FMD vaccination. More on rapid on-site diagnostic technology)
May 27 2008 ~ US Government Accounting Office report warns about what happened at Pirbright
The GAO report "GAO-08-821T High-Containment Biosafety Laboratories", should be read in full ( warmwell's html version here in new window) Its conclusions are particularly relevant to the hazards demonstrated by the Pirbright leak.
"...A recent release from the Pirbright facility - located in a farming community on the mainland of the United Kingdom - highlights the risks of a release from a laboratory that is in close proximity to the susceptible animals....The report reveals that the DHS had not conducted any studies to determine the wisdom of moving FMD activities away from Plum Island, using instead an existing study that does not clearly support such a move. The GAO concludes that an island location can help prevent what happened in Surrey: the spread of FMD virus along terrestrial routes (by vehicles splashed with contaminated mud, for example) and also perhaps airborne transmission. The report noted grimly how "recent outbreaks in the United Kingdom have demonstrated its economic consequences."
- ....human error can never be completely eliminated and since a lack of commitment to the proper maintenance of biocontainment facilities and their associated technology - as the Pirbright facility showed - can cause releases...
- ...The investigations determined that there had been a failure to properly maintain the site's infrastructure. In all, eight separate outbreaks occurred over a 2-month period.
- ... ...accidents, while rare, still occur because of human or technical errors. Given the non-zero risk of a release from any biocontainment facility, most of the experts we spoke with told us that an island location can provide additional protection. ...."
Concern about Security at Plum Island
.I applaud the NLRB.s decision,. said Senator Hillary Clinton, who along with Congressman Tim Bishop has been involved with Plum Island since inaugurations. ...
www.warmwell.com/04aug18clintonplum.html - 9k -
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But Homeland Security opted not to go beyond informing Clinton, Bishop, ... between the Plum Island research facility and the local community," they said. ...
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(The first took place the day before the center's 50th anniversary drew large crowds, but Plum Island officials said nothing.) Clinton and Bishop told ...
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Questions about the security of Plum Island arose after the 2001 terrorist ... Clinton and Bishop defended the whistleblower and said firing him sent the ...
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An August 2 letter signed by Senator Hillary Clinton and Congressman Tim Bishop to the director of the Plum Island Animal Disease Center, released yesterday ...
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