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Bio-lab faces growing opposition; Homeland Security says message 'received'

Posted August 6, 2008
Updated August 7, 2008

— Growing opposition to a proposed bio-defense lab in Granville County may end its chances of ending up there.

Butner is one of five finalist locations that the Department of Homeland Security is considering for a $450 million National Bio- and Agro-Defense facility, which would study animal diseases and diseases spread from animals to humans.

Homeland Security officials held two public hearings in Butner last week to gauge how the community would support a proposed lab. Protesters gathered outside of the meetings.

Kathryn Spann is one of many who spoke at the Homeland Security meetings against the lab.

Despite the fact the opposition overwhelmingly outnumbered those in favor of the lab, Spann said there's more work to be done.

"It's going to be Homeland Security who has to decide whether they want to try to make a facility working an environment that is plainly hostile to it," Spann said.

A spokesperson for Homeland Security said representatives will remember what they saw in Butner.

"Your message has been received and the message has been that you don't support us coming here," Department of Homeland Security’s Science & Technology spokesman John Verrico said.

Supporters say the lab would bring about 1,500 short-term construction jobs and would eventually employ up to 500 people and could generate $6 billion in the local economy over the next two decades.

Some supporters, including local elected officials, have changed their minds about the facility.

U.S. Rep. Brad Miller, who represents the 13th congressional district which includes Granville County, said he cannot support bringing a federal facility to a community in his district that does not welcome it.

"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," Miller said in a statement Wednesday.

The Raleigh City Council has voted to adopt a resolution formally opposing the lab. Creedmoor officials have also spoken out against the project. Durham city leaders have not taken a stance on the lab yet. A public forum is scheduled Wednesday night to hear from the public.

In a statement Wednesday, U.S. Rep. David Price, (D-NC), chair of the Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, said he understands the “Raleigh City Council’s continued concerns about the potential impact of the proposed NBAF facility on the city’s water supply.”

Price said he has taken steps to ensure the facility will not be constructed at any of the five proposed sites until the department conducts a risk analysis.

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole’s office also released a statement Wednesday saying the senator has pressed the Department of Homeland Security to address the questions and concerns of North Carolinians about the NBAF. Dole thinks it would be very difficult for DHS to locate the facility in an area where local officials and residents are not supportive.

North Carolina Biotechnology Center officials this week said the center would not be accepting a $262,248 grant that would have funded efforts to support the bio-lab.

Warwick Arden, dean of the N.C. State University College of Veterinary Medicine, is a member of a consortium that supports putting the lab Butner.

Arden said the group will be releasing a statement by the end of the week regarding its position on the future of the lab.

Arden said he has concerns that Homeland Security has not adequately answered the public’s concerns over the project.

This week, Homeland Security officials attended public hearings in Mississippi and Kansas to survey public interest in those sites, Verrico said.

A decision on the final site will likely not be made until December, Verrico said.

13 Comments

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  • sjmr1216 Aug 7, 2008

    maybe we should just call it a pig farm or landfill, then those silly hicks won't oppose it.

    it's embarrassing that people of the triangle would oppose something as opportunistic as a biodefense lab.

    to primedesignmaineanjou: that wasn't because of the lab, that was because of an ineffective vaccine. the disease would still have occurred regardless of where it was made.

  • vote4changeASAP Aug 7, 2008

    The ONLY ignorant people here who support this lab should research the 2007 FMD break at a vaccine laboratory in Great Britian.

    Large animals produce POUNDS of waste daily as compared to mice and rats, that has to be handled properly to prevent an accidental outbreak.

    I repeat!!! These FEW jobs are not worth the potential detrimental loss of livestock in NC.

  • FromClayton Aug 7, 2008

    look, it's got to go somewhere. Butner sounds like the perfect place. It has jails, mental instutions, rock quaries and numerous land fills. No one objected to those things. IMO, Butner is already ruined, why not put the bio lab there. It's where Raleigh puts all the junk it doesnt want. On an upnote, it will bring a lot of jobs for peopel who live in the triangle area. I like the idea.

  • Bendal1 Aug 7, 2008

    And yet another high-tech, well paying source of jobs heads out of state thanks to obstructionist, fear-wracked people more willing to chant silly slogans then to actually think for themselves. Granville County, hope you're satisfied with what you've currently got (which isn't all that much).

  • iamforjustice Aug 6, 2008

    I live and work in the area and I feel this would be something good for this area. I am not afraid no more than I am afraid of what comes out of Granville, Durham Regional or Duke Hospitals. This bio-lab is to protect us not hurt us. How ignorant can the people of Granville County be? They didn't want Max Factor or Lenox China coming. Ignorance is bliss huh?

  • NCSULandscaper Aug 6, 2008

    yes im a couple of miles away from it

  • davidgnews Aug 6, 2008

    NCSULandscaper - do live anywhere close to the proposed site?

    Let's hear it !

    Having DHS running something is about one notch up from FEMA.

  • NCSULandscaper Aug 6, 2008

    i swear people are just so ignorant, they listen to the media too much about what WILL go wrong, not what could go wrong, and all in all nothing would go wrong.

  • WRALSUCKS Aug 6, 2008

    Not in my back yard! Not in my back yard!

  • oldschooltarheel Aug 6, 2008

    gosh people - bump this story - it's very telling about the culture & economic base (or lack there of).

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