Local News

Raleigh, Durham Question Safety of Proposed Bioterror Lab

Posted December 19, 2007
Updated December 20, 2007

Map Marker  Find News Near Me

— Raleigh officials and Durham residents are expressing concern about a federal bioterrorism lab that could be built in Granville County.

Butner is one of five sites being considered for the National Bio- and Agro-Defense facility, which would study animal diseases or diseases spread from animals to humans. Part of the Umstead Research Farm would be used for $450 million lab, which officials said would create 350 to 450 jobs and generate a $1.65 billion impact on the local economy.

Although Raleigh officials haven't formally taken a position for or against the lab, they outlined their concerns about the lab in a recent letter to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker said city leaders want to ensure that it doesn't pose a threat to the Falls Lake watershed. The headwaters of the lake, which serves as Raleigh's primary reservoir, stretch into southern Granville County near Butner.

"We don't want anything coming out of the lab, inadvertently or otherwise, that might affect our water supply," Meeker said. "It does affect the whole Triangle area, not just Butner or that surrounding area. It could affect the air or water quality throughout the area."

Nearby residents already have banded together to block the lab from coming to Butner. The federal government is expected to select the site for lab next fall.

"They're going to study the most deadly diseases on the planet," said David Krabbe, a Durham County farmer whose farm sits four miles from the proposed lab site. "What we need to do is get people to write and call public officials and say we don't need this."

Dr. Warwick Arden, dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine at North Carolina State University, said the lab poses little contamination risk to Falls Lake and surrounding landowners.

"These labs have evolved to the point where there's tremendous safety, security and scrutiny," said Arden, who is leading the effort to bring the lab to North Carolina.

The Durham City Council was expected to discuss the bio-defense lab Thursday.

37 Comments

Please with your WRAL.com account to comment on this story. You also will need a Facebook account to comment.

Oldest First
View all
  • TechRescue Dec 20, 2007

    I'm sorry forgot the link from DHS that lists the "facts" that I "disregarded"

    http://www.dhs.gov/xres/labs/gc_1188510580089.shtm

  • TechRescue Dec 20, 2007

    "Because the federal government already owns land in Butner. Using that land reduces the cost to taxpayers."

    That would be great, except it's the state that owns the land - they also own a lot of land near RTP

    "What's funny about all this is the absolute disregard for the facts opponents are using."

    Substitute "proponents" for "opponents" and you'd be closer to the mark.

  • blackdog Dec 20, 2007

    Dr. Warwick Arden, dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine at North Carolina State University, said the lab poses little contamination risk to Falls Lake and surrounding landowners.

    "These labs have evolved to the point where there's tremendous safety, security and scrutiny," said Arden, who is leading the effort to bring the lab to North Carolina.
    Note the words "little" "contamination risk". No chance at all would be more comforting, but it's not what was said ...

  • ThePhwner Dec 20, 2007

    That is an excellent point about safety. If there was a serious risk, this facility would be built somewhere in the Alaskan countryside, and not 15 miles from a major population center.

  • blackdog Dec 20, 2007

    ...I stand corrected. The ppw is from the SW and the jet stream has been recently moving easterly with brief dips into the southeast. The facility will be safe. Cars, guns, fire, electricity, water, chainsaws.....are all safe. No human has ever been injured or killed by a safe object....unless man is involved.

  • ANYWHO Dec 20, 2007

    MEEKER WILL GET IT RIGHT AND STRAIGHT. HE IS A LAS VEGAS NATIVE AND HE KNOWS WHAT TO DO...WHAT A JOKE...

  • charlesboyer Dec 20, 2007

    "If there are no dangers, then why not RTP?"

    Because the federal government already owns land in Butner. Using that land reduces the cost to taxpayers.

    What's funny about all this is the absolute disregard for the facts opponents are using.

  • FragmentFour Dec 20, 2007

    Isn't there some land available a few miles up wind of Crawford, Texas?--- mohnkae

    Now THAT'S a happy thought - thank you!

  • hp277 Dec 20, 2007

    Just like opposition to nuclear plants, opposition to this biolab is based on paranoia, not facts. This would be one of the most secure facilities on the planet.

  • TechRescue Dec 20, 2007

    If there are no dangers, then why not RTP? After all, the reason for having it here is to draw from the talent pools at the local universities and the Government facilities in the park. Locating it in RTP would cut the commutes of the staff and put them in reach of bus service (we're all about mass transit now). If there was a problem, lots more law enforcement fire, and hazardous materials expertise available.I mean, it's safe, right? You folks in Raleigh don't even care about prevailing winds because nothing will ever happen, right?

More...