Local News

Activists Reunite to Fight Lab That Others Tout as Great Granville Opportunity

Posted October 9, 2007 6:28 p.m. EDT

— They banded together in the late ‘80s, fighting to keep a proposed incinerator from coming to Granville County.

Now, that same group – the Granville Non-Violent Action Team, or GNAT – is reuniting with a similar goal. GNAT wants to stop a proposed bio-defense lab from coming to Butner.

GNAT says it’s committed to its cause, but others in Granville say that getting the federal facility would be a "win-win."

Edie McKellar is a veteran of the 1989 incinerator battle.

“It's a scary thing they're bringing here, and we don't deserve something like this,” McKellar says.

Johnny Balmer, president-elect of the Granville County Chamber of Commerce, voices the opposite argument.

“It's a no-brainer. It's good for Granville County,” Balmer says.

Both sides are talking about the National Bio- and Agro-Defense facility. Butner is one of five communities in the country on the short list of sites for it.

Balmer says 350-450 jobs, about 1,500 short-term construction jobs and a $1.65 billion impact on the local economy make it too good to pass up.

The group is concerned about the environmental impact of the plant, and they say it could be a target for terrorists.

John Pike, an opponent says, “We certainly don't deserve to be dumped on, and we certainly don't deserve to be dumped on two, three, four, five times.”

The incinerator battle was hard fought. McKellar, a GNAT member, said she remembers all too well sitting under a drill that was ready to strike and getting arrested.

“We fought for what was right and I'm proud of it,” McKellar said.

“A lot of times when people have the not-in-my-backyard mentality they don't think through the process of the economic benefit to the county,” Balmer says.

GNAT vows not to give up. The members believe they're protecting their families and their community from a potentially risky situation, just like they did nearly 20 years ago.

A final selection on a lab site is expected about a year from now. If Butner is chosen, the lab could be up and running by 2013.