Something about those damn Colonists huddled up on the Eastern Seaboard. Makes folks skittish living that close to the Euro Zone’s market wobbles. Or maybe it’s the acidifying Atlantic sea spray.
Whatever the cause, it’s no illusion that the further west one gets from Long Island and the Plum Island germ lab just offshore, the more exciting playing host to Homeland Security’s proposed National Bio- & Agro-Defense Facility becomes.
Sen. Hillary Clinton said “hell no” to N-BAF locating at the current high-security Plum Island site the $500-$700 million facitliy would replace. Her argument? Too close to a major population center. Same excuse that axed Maryland from the list still holding San Antonio and five other possibles. Course Texas population centers like San Antonio are more rugged. Got that “can do” attitude.
Japanese encephalitis sees our jacked-up Tundras and back-pocket dip-tobacco rings and wilts. Verdad?
Clinton was joined in her objection this week by those living closest to Plum Island’s germ lab — the people of Plum Island.
Here’s yesterday’s editorial from the Suffolk County Times. (Watch for some fine double-speak going on here.)
It’s clear that Plum Island is the wrong place for the Department of Homeland Security’s new National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility, and we urge the federal agency to look elsewhere for a site for its new state-of-the-art animal disease research center.Our opinion is not because we believe research with dangerous pathogens can’t safely be conducted there. It’s being conducted there right now, at a facility much less secure than the new one would be. We’re fairly confident that a new, more secure facility equipped to handle even more dangerous pathogens could also be safely operated there. Other advanced labs, indeed labs that handle pathogens potentially more harmful to humans than the ones that the new NBAF will handle, operate safely in or near very populous areas, such as Atlanta. There is always some risk, certainly, but, assuming such research is necessary, there’s a very real benefit, too.
But Plum Island just isn’t the place. Why?
Look to Homeland Security’s own criteria for a suitable site. They are assessing the site’s proximity to research capabilities, proximity to workforce, the cost of site acquisition, facility construction and operations, and, last but not least, community acceptance.Most of the other sites on the short list are either on university campuses or adjacent to them. Others are also next to existing biotech research labs. This means there’s a population of scientists surrounding the other proposed sites: a source of both intellectual capital and future lab researchers. Not so Plum Island. The other locations have more readily available and affordable housing opportunities. Building the new lab at each of the other locations will be cheaper. Operating it will be less costly, too. Everything here — from housing to workforce costs, construction prices, and energy and transportation costs — is simply way more expensive. Even cost prohibitive.
And then there’s community acceptance. The community spoke out loud and clear with a single voice at Tuesday night’s hearing. The message: No.
The only place where Plum Island comes out on top, potentially, is the acquisition-cost criteria. The feds already own the site. On balance, though, that doesn’t make up for all the rest of the site’s shortcomings. Plum just isn’t the right place for the NBAF.
The editor is wrong on that last point. As I’ve pointed out numerous times, Homeland’s own Draft Environmental Impact Statement found the island the best bet for avoiding an outbreak. Pleasing Easterners, Plum will be closed if the current location isn’t chosen for the mother(germ)ship.
Suffolk County isn’t alone is opposing Plum siting. It is supremely unpopular in North Carolina, too.
Connecticut resident’s and their AG have also now joined the fray:
BOSTON, Aug 14 (Reuters) – Connecticut will fight a proposal to turn a federal laboratory known as the “Alcatraz for animal disease” into a facility to study deadly viruses, the state’s attorney general said on Thursday.
New York’s Plum Island is one of six potential sites for a new facility that would study lethal diseases transmitted by animals along with biological agents that could harm food supplies.
The facility would be the only biosafety level 4 animal laboratory in the country and could cost as much as $750 million to build.
Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said the proposed laboratory would make his state a potential target for terrorists and put human life at risk.
“Dire public health dangers of leaks or terrorist attacks make this site clearly and completely unacceptable,” he said in a statement. His office is preparing formal comments to fight the Department of Homeland Security proposal, he added.
Newsday expounds on this terror-link fear:
The Plum Island Animal Disease Center’s inclusion on a list seized from a Pakistani scientist suspected of terrorism has heightened the fears of some North Fork residents who say the facility is still not adequately secure.
Referring to arrested neuroscientist Aafia Siddiqui, Melanie Norden of Greenport said yesterday, “she was a ‘distinguished’ scientist and might have been able to get to Plum Island as a researcher.” …
The Government Accountability Office, elected officials and North Fork residents have questioned security on the island for years.
The GAO said in December that six of 24 security measures recommended in a report four years earlier had not been implemented at the facility where contagious foreign animal diseases are studied. The report said there were still security shortcomings, such as a lack of a policy providing background checks for contractors and visitors, and a need for more exercises with Southold police.
It’s an amazing conversation taking place. Too bad your local media doesn’t want you to hear it.