Local News

Butner lab opponents, backers begin to digest massive U.S. risk report

Posted June 21, 2008

— Local reaction is beginning to grow as people concerned with a possible bio-hazard research laboratory in Butner digest a 1,000-page report in which the U.S. Department of Homeland Security analyzed risks that could be associated with such a facility.

Butner, in Granville County, is one of five sites in the nation that are under consideration. across the country. One of the topics the report addresses is potential economic impacts of a release of an organism under study.

Backers and opponents of a Butner lab have been waiting months for the report to come out.

“We've been anxiously awaiting to see what they have to say,” said Bill McKellar, a member of an opposition group called the Granville Non-violent Action Team.

Supporters are studying the report and were expected to comment next week.

Scientists at the lab would study diseases such as foot-and-mouth disease. The risks that would come with having such organisms in the Triangle – and how large or small those risks would be – have caught the eyes of many in the region.

“What are the chances of something getting out and how severe are those consequences?” Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker said.

Raleigh City Council members have said they want a guarantee no contaminants from the lab could get into the Falls Lake watershed, the city's main water source.

The study says an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease would cost the U.S. economy billions of dollars, but it also specifies that the likelihood of an outbreak is very low. Risk-assessment scientists and government officials have long wrestled with public opinion about events that are very unlikely to happen but that could cause major problems if they did.

Many here locally, including some veterinarians from N.C. State University, agree there's little contamination risk. Others aren't convinced.

“By defending what appears to be our backyard, we're defending all of North Carolina, really,” said Elaine McNeill, a lab opponent.

The Department of Homeland Security's Web site says there will be another public hearing in Butner on the proposed lab at the end of July.

The four locations the U.S. is considering in addition to Butner are Athens, Ga.; Manhattan, Kan.; San Antonio; and Flora, Miss. A sixth alternative would be construction of a new research lab on Plum Island, N.Y., where the work is done now.


This story is closed for comments.

Oldest First
View all
  • baileysmom3 Jun 23, 2008

    how do you know if these organisms are not getting into the water if no one is testing the water for them? So if you do put the lab there you need to consider testing at water treatment plants for these organisms.

  • baileysmom3 Jun 23, 2008

    dont take my parents land to make this stupid bio lab. this is retarded. my parents have been here for 16 years dont take their land. us army corps of engineers need to find somewhere else.

  • bandydoo2000 Jun 23, 2008

    The Bio Lab should stay where it is on Plum Island. The British just had an outbreak of Foot and Mouth disease. The scientists traced it back to the Bio Lab that had recently flooded. The flood water had enter the facility and carried the germs away infecting farm animals near by. There are plenty creeks and there is a lake at Butner. Plus Butner was fined by the State a couple years ago for sewage spillage.

    I just don't think it is a good idea.