State News

Opponents turn out to blast proposed biohazard lab

Posted July 29, 2008
Updated July 30, 2008

— More than 100 opponents of a federal laboratory that would study bio-hazardous materials turned out to voice their objections Tuesday in Butner.

North Carolina is among five states being considered for the $450 million National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility. The lab would study pathogens such as anthrax, avian flu and foot-and-mouth disease.

Two meetings were held Tuesday at the Butner-Stem Middle School to collect public inout on a draft environmental impact statement about putting the lab in Butner.

“It absolutely defies logic and common sense to put a facility such as this in the middle of every major water supply,” Butner resident Suzanne Moody Smith said.

The Department of Homeland Security is scheduled to select a site in the fall, with construction to start in 2009.

if North Carolina is selected, the lab would be on 195 acres at Umstead Research Farm in Butner. It would deal with pathogens that could be used as biological threats against the United States.

About 10 percent of the lab would be set aside for viruses with no known cures.

‘I think it is pretty close to a no-brainer that the nation needs it and that the nation needs it to be in the absolute best site. Many of us believe North Carolina is the absolute best site,” said Dr. Barrett Slenning, a veterinarian at North Carolina State University.

“They’re giving us the wrong data to decide whether this is an economic boom to this area or not. And I don't think it will be,” bio lab opponent Elaine McNeill said.

The lab will replace an existing facility on Plum Island, N.Y.


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  • iamforjustice Jul 30, 2008

    Hey folks, are you even aware of all the stuff that is being done in our universities? I am referring to the medical schools at Duke, UNC, Wake Forest. And lets not forget the vet school at NCSU. Of course, they all operate in secured and isloated lab facilities, but I guess it is more fun to let the fear take over.

    Are you aware that the CDC, which deals with some of the nastiest and meanest biohazards is located in down town Atlanta?

    At least there is one level headed person in here that agrees with me. The lab is a good thing to have. Stop being so ignorant people and bass ackwards.

  • RNM Jul 30, 2008

    "I am all for it! With RTP and the Lab combined with our educational organizations we should become a very bio/science based area!!!"

    I took that exact same stance for a long time. Then I educated myself on the matter (both sides of the matter) and realized what a mistake it would be. I don't live in Granville County, nor do I drink water from Falls Lake. I'm also generally for development and research in the area. But this is russian roulette. Plus Homeland Security is concealing a lot of details and objectives (surprise, surprise). Whether this facility is truly needed is a matter of opinion, but either way, there are far more suitable locations, even in our area, where water treatment and evacuation issues would be much less significant.

  • Frank Downtown Jul 30, 2008

    I am all for it! With RTP and the Lab combined with our educational organizations we should become a very bio/science based area!!!

  • mgraystem Jul 30, 2008

    If this is supposed to be such a good deal and so safe, there is plenty of room beside the Vet School, on the hill at old Dorthea Dix, and in RTP. That way these knowitalls won't have so far to drive.

    PUT IT THERE!! just give us a Walmart or anything that is useful

  • RNM Jul 30, 2008

    The notion that the NBAF will boost the economy is an ABSOLUTE CROCK. The only jobs that will be created for locals will be support services and custodial. DHS will bring in their own doctors and reserachers from out of state. Plus its already been determined that cost of infrastructure will actually far outweigh any economic benefit to the area. Not to mention the additonal costs of hazardous waste and water treatment for Granville and Wake counties. Property value isn't exactly going to skyrocket from this, either. As for the scope of this project, there is not a Level 4 facility currently anywhere in the US. To compare it to university research labs is ludicrous. DHS leaves clauses that enable the lab to switch to human-to-human bio warfare agents at its own discretion and without disclosure. Consider just yesterday DHS admits it would have no ability to control any accidental germ release and no way to evacuate Murdoch and Umstead if the need arose. No thanks.

  • Bendal1 Jul 30, 2008

    There are risks involved with any medical research site, industrial facility, refinery, factory, etc, etc. Want everything risk-free? Go live on an island with no technology at all, then.

    The universities around here conduct similar research all the time and no one has a problem with it; that's one of the reasons why they want to put the biolab in Butner, because of the faculty at these schools.

    These "public hearings" are really just dog and pony shows for the easily frightened to have their say. I heard few reasoned opinions opposing the site, not that it would have mattered. The biolab people could have had the most prestigious experts in the field of safety speak to these people and they would have just labeled him a paid shill who would say anything to get it approved.

    I've been on the receiving end of similar hearings, and it's no fun at all.

  • moorecs Jul 29, 2008

    and people wonder why Granville County is so poor as compared to the rest of the Triangle? Lets see, it would bring people with good, high-paying jobs who would purchase homes that would increase the tax base.

    Easy for you to say. You probably don't live anywhere near Butner or Falls Lake!

  • blackdog Jul 29, 2008

    ...the proponents say the risk is very low....that means there IS a risk nonetheless.

  • Supie Jul 29, 2008

    News and Observer says over 200 showed up to protest. If everyone was educated about this extreme hazard, there would be no need for a protest. No one would consider it.

  • Trooper Jul 29, 2008

    "LOOK OUT LOOK OUT the sky is falling"