Local News

Residents Voice Concerns Over Bio-Defense Lab

Posted September 18, 2007
Updated January 26, 2008

— Hundreds of people came out Tuesday night to talk about a proposed bio-defense lab in Granville County. North Carolina is among five state finalists for the new facility.

The lab would be part of the Department of Homeland Security and could be built at the Umstead Research Farm near Butner.

A public hearing at South Granville High School reveled heated debate among folks living nearby.

"In an age of terrorism, I have a terrific concern," said a resident.

"What if there was an accident or mishap or mistake?" said another resident.

Some state and national leaders want the National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF) to be built in Butner. A group of some 30 organizations banded together to support the North Carolina bid.

Supporters said the $450 million lab would bring about 1,500 short-term construction jobs to the area and would eventually employ up to 500 people.

"It's where the explosion of job creation has been over the last decade, and it really furthers the research and development that is currently going on in our state," said Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C.

"With the Research Triangle Park, the bio-technology industry that was here made it very attractive," said James Johnson, director of national laboratories for the Department of Homeland Security.

The opposition stems from the fact that scientists would study diseases such as foot-and-mouth. Some residents said they worry about the potential risk associated with deadly organisms being in the community.

"It's going to replace the one [bio-defense lab] that's in New York currently. That one is on an island and there is a reason for that," said Butner resident Doug Teasley.

Johnson said Tuesday night that Ebola and anthrax would not be among the diseases studied at the proposed Butner lab.

Residents asked whether the facility would make Butner a terrorism target. Johnson said armed guards would make sure the lab stayed safe.

Other sites selected as finalists for the 520,000-square-foot facility are:

  • Flora Industrial Park, Madison County, Miss.
  • Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kan.
  • Texas Research Park, San Antonio, Texas
  • University of Georgia/South Milledge Avenue, Athens, Ga.

The next step in the selection process is to look at the environmental impact of the proposed sites.

The Department of Homeland Security will use that information to help determine site suitability. A final selection is expected about a year from now. If Butner is chosen, a lab could be up and running by 2013.


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  • sunnykimmy Sep 19, 2007

    I'd like to add that one of my classmates lives in Granville County and is a bio-processing major... when hearing this news said..."I wouldn't want to work in a place like that! Not even with my degree...."

  • sunnykimmy Sep 19, 2007

    To address CJ,

    I live in Creedmoor, I live 3 miles from Butner. It affects us too. The "line of demarcation" between Butner and Creedmoor is so vague most people don't know where Butner stops and Creedmoor begins... but onto the issue at hand...I just found out about this yesterday while I was in school from my microbiology teacher! Why was this not more highly publicized? Well, maybe it was, I am in school and concentrating on becoming a nurse to help people get over these bugs when exposed. My mother-in-law did read it in the paper, but there's been no buzz about it recently. My BIGGEST concern with this is... has anyone considered what might happen if an inmate from the federal prision escaped and broke into this plant... what would happen then? I'm sure this is a great "economic opportunity" for the state, but do we really want a boom like this. North Carolina is a great place to live, Granville County one of it's nicer counties, do we really want to spoil it like this????

  • Dnut Sep 19, 2007

    We who live, work, and have kids who go to school in Butner cannot for the life of us understand why they would want that facility there. Other than it's State land, which means it will be free to the FEDS to build. The town of Butner just became a city, but it's not official yet and if they were an actual city they may hire a law firm to block it, and for most of the county commissioners who are old and probably won't be reelected after this fiasco want to shove more institutions down our throats like Polk youth prison, the new DIX-or Central Mental hospital, whatever they want to call it! Last nights meeting was a sham, the local,state, and fed politicians new that there was a meeting coming and didn't announce in the paper until it was a week out. They think there (SLICK), but come election time there going to get fired!!! WE DON'T WANT ANYTHING TO DO WITH THE BIODEFENSE PLACE! Somebody's getting paid off, got to be!

  • Dnut Sep 19, 2007

    What all of you could do to stop it and save those of us who actually live right here at it, since we can't seem to stop the train of politicians from being for it (election time soon) is email your opinion to www.dhs.gov/nbaf and click on "public involvment." Please, we citizens who actually live, pay taxes and have kids going to school within arms length of this site are begging for your help!!!

  • bilboid Sep 19, 2007

    This plant would just move here from Plum Island off Long Island ny. Google it.Carrolls' book "Lab 257" outlines the results of horrific mismanagement. Researching the book he took a boat w/in 20 feet of the plant and a worker at the plant said, "2 Eskimos in a Kayak could take this plant". Anyone who thinks these places are safe need to do some research.

  • doodad Sep 19, 2007

    ranger, if you asked a few Johnston county natives, they would tell you that what I described caused their county taxes to increase significantly, therefore they had to help foot the bill for the overgrowth of Wake county. They will also tell you that Johnston county property taxes are $.78/100 where as Wake county property taxes are $.63/100. Shoppers are going to source the cheapest necessities and local businesses (Granville) won't necessarily benefit.

  • 68_polara Sep 19, 2007

    I work in a building next to a pharmaceutical company in the triangle that supposedly has some pretty bad stuff and I can say this, there is no way they could have less security than the next door building.

  • cj Sep 19, 2007

    Why do people keep talking about Creedmoor? The article states that they are looking for a place in Butner. Being in Butner will have nothing to do with taxes in Creedmoor. If Butner can put up with the other facilities that are there, what's one more?

    I can't see where there would be anywhere that you would find degree holding scientist more abundant in one place than another. There has to be a place that looks for cures and this could be the place that puts everything right.

  • nisa-pizza Sep 19, 2007


    I don't fear change but I do know for a fact that this theory of stimulating the local economy doesn't alway work. My brother in-law who is a bio-chemist who works in Johnston Co. off US70, along with quite a few of his co-workers still live in Raleigh and commute and spend most of their money back at home in Wake Co. (He's been with them for over 30 years.) The last time I went by there some years ago, it was still surrounded by tobacco fields with not nearly the development many thought there would be. (Especially once I-4o was finished)

    They prefered to live where there were more things for their kids to do, culture and activity wise so these strategies can back fire and leave that area not as well off as they intended.

  • rangerchef Sep 19, 2007

    doodad you forgot to mention while paying johnston county taxes.