State News

Opponents turn out to blast proposed biohazard lab

Posted July 29, 2008 4:01 a.m. EDT
Updated July 30, 2008 9:13 a.m. EDT

— 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.