Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Biotech Security Science

DHS Pathogen Lab To Be Built In "Tornado Alley" 275

Posted by kdawson
from the don't-think-we're-in-kansas-anymore dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "The Washington Post reports that Department of Homeland Security is relying on a rushed, flawed study to justify its decision to locate the $700 million National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility for highly infectious pathogens in a tornado-prone section of Kansas. A GAO report says that it is not 'scientifically defensible' to conclude that lab can safely handle dangerous animal diseases in Kansas. Such research has been conducted up to now on a remote island on the northern tip of Long Island, NY. 'Drawing conclusions about relocating research with highly infectious exotic animal pathogens from questionable methodology could result in regrettable consequences,' the GAO warned in its draft report. Critics of moving the operation to the mainland argue that a release could lead to widespread contamination that could kill livestock, devastate a farm economy, and endanger humans. Along with the highly contagious foot-and-mouth disease, NBAF researchers plan to study African swine fever, Japanese encephalitis, Rift Valley fever, and other viruses in the Biosafety Level (BSL) 3 and BSL-4 livestock laboratory capable of developing countermeasures for foreign animal diseases. According to the article, DHS lobbied a Congressional committee to try and convince them that the GAO report was flawed, and to head off any hearings on the controversy. Despite this, the House Energy and Commerce Committee's oversight and investigations subcommittee plans to hold a hearing Thursday on the risk analysis."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

DHS Pathogen Lab To Be Built In "Tornado Alley"

Comments Filter:
  • Two Words (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Nefarious Wheel (628136) on Monday July 27, 2009 @07:36PM (#28845331) Journal
    Andromeda Strain [wikipedia.org]
  • Tornados? (Score:5, Funny)

    by gmuslera (3436) on Monday July 27, 2009 @07:44PM (#28845397) Homepage Journal
    H1N1, I have a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by davester666 (731373)

      It's perfect. They'll be isolated because nobody wants to live in the area because tornadoes keep wrecking their homes and farms.

      Solves the 'not in my backyard' problem. Well, until a tornado picks up the lab and drops it in somebody's backyard...

      • by Nefarious Wheel (628136) on Monday July 27, 2009 @08:50PM (#28846019) Journal

        Solves the 'not in my backyard' problem. Well, until a tornado picks up the lab and drops it in somebody's backyard...

        I saw a documentary about that once. Apparently it caused some very strange mutations where the lab landed; there was evidence of quite a number of unusually small people, strange soporific meteorological events, at least one animal with increased intelligence (at the expense of certain other survival attributes) and one person with a markedly green complexion and behavior anomalies, rendered vulnerable by becoming highly water soluble. I think the pathogens were carried in eggs with a human vector.

  • OMFG!!!! (Score:5, Informative)

    by Vinegar Joe (998110) on Monday July 27, 2009 @07:44PM (#28845401)

    This is the plot to "Devil Winds".......one the all-time worst disaster films!

    http://movies.nytimes.com/movie/306319/Devil-Winds/overview [nytimes.com]
    http://www.blockbusteronline.com/movies/devil-winds.html [blockbusteronline.com]

    • [reminisce]I miss the good old disaster flicks of the 1970s. [/reminisce]
      *Camperdave starts humming The Morning After [youtube.com]
      • by tcopeland (32225)

        > I miss the good old disaster flicks of the 1970s

        Indeed sir, but I look forward to 2012 topping them all. Consider the latest trailer [ew.com]... looks like good times...

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by MaskedSlacker (911878)

          After the shitfest that was The Day After Tomorrow (same director), I expect 2012 to be equally stupid.

      • My trivia sense fails me and my google skills are weak.

        Does anyone remember the name of that bad 70s movie of a post nuclear war America where some survivors try to make it from a missile or air force base to some safer place in a couple of 'futuristic' vehicles with triangular wheel assemblies?

        I remember they had to dodge tornados at one point (they used the term tornado alley), then escape from killer bugs. Man, that movie was crap.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by MaskedSlacker (911878)

      *Heavy Sigh*

      Any time reality starts imitating made for cable movies is a good time to break out the hemlock tea.

  • Can't Believe It! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by amiga3D (567632) on Monday July 27, 2009 @07:47PM (#28845435)

    Congress is actually going to practice a little due diligence. How nice if they always did this.

  • by YesIAmAScript (886271) on Monday July 27, 2009 @07:47PM (#28845443)

    110 miles from NYC is safe but Kansas is far too dangerous?

    This doesn't make any sense.

    • by CorporateSuit (1319461) on Monday July 27, 2009 @07:56PM (#28845523)
      New Yorkers have shown their ingenuity in fizzling out countless disasters according to the action and disaster movies I've seen. Any problems that happen in Kansas, however, will eat a path of destruction until it reaches the outskirts of New York City, just before the crackpot scientist (who happens to be a close, personal friend of the president) is able to unleash his creatively-devised weapon to stop the problem, and burn it back to its core.
      • by Blakey Rat (99501)

        New Yorkers have shown their ingenuity in fizzling out countless disasters according to the action and disaster movies I've seen. Any problems that happen in Kansas, however, will eat a path of destruction until it reaches the outskirts of New York City, just before the crackpot scientist (who happens to be a close, personal friend of the president) is able to unleash his creatively-devised weapon to stop the problem, and burn it back to its core.

        Hey! You're being entirely unfair!

        It's just as likely that th

    • by ccbailey (859060) on Monday July 27, 2009 @08:01PM (#28845569) Homepage
      Disclaimer: I am a veterinarian Currently this sort of research is done on Plum Island (http://www.ars.usda.gov/main/site_main.htm?modecode=19-40-00-00) which is conveniently separated from everything else by a nice long bridge. Very little of the disease work that goes on there has zoonotic potential, that is potential to infect humans, and those diseases that do would require transmission via arthropod vectors that hopefully don't live in New York. The worry with putting this kind of facility in Kansas is for diseases like foot and mouth disease (FMD), which cause epidemics in livestock but are harmless to people. Foot and mouth can be easily transmitted on objects and through aerosol. Outbreaks in FMD-free countries take months and cost hundreds of millions of dollars to clean up before you can convince anyone to buy your exports again. I think the idea is that there aren't too many cows on Long Island but a hell of a lot more of them in Kansas.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by mevets (322601)

      Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Character) - Quotes
      Kansas. Well, if we destroy Kansas the world may not hear about it for years.

  • some jerkoff senator is scratching some corporate donor's back by bringing the massive contruction contract to his own back yard in BFE, Kansas.

    This is the worst kind of politicking. Anyone with any kind of common sense knows that the only facility safe in tornado alley is built underground.

    • by tsotha (720379)
      That's the way things work in Washington. It's not just this particular center. It's all military projects. It's NASA. It's roads and bridges. And national parks. Congress decides where everything goes based on horse-trading, and it's been that way for at least the four decades I've been alive. Did you ever wonder why they built Johnson Space Center in Houston when the launch facilities were in Florida? Or why we have, literally, hundreds of military bases strewn all throughout the country? The mili
  • by Somegeek (624100) on Monday July 27, 2009 @07:56PM (#28845515)

    Why not put it somewhere isolated that is very cold or very hot, like Alaska or the desert, where the environment would help limit the spread of any escaped pathogens, not give them an ideal breeding ground like Kansas would.

    You could use the argument that researchers wouldn't want to live there, but you could say the same thing about Kansas!

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Yeah, let's put the lab in Antarctica! It'll be totally safe there! Nobody would get within a thousand miles of the facility. Well, except for the all the cross-country plane trips to bring newly discovered strains from the midwest. But hey, jets are the safest form of travel, right?

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by basementman (1475159)

      Living in Kansas is crazy cheap though. You can buy a legit house with a foundation and everything for 30k.

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        and if you don't like the location, just wait six months for nature to move your house somewhere else.

      • by Nimey (114278)

        It is really cheap to live out this way. We bought a new 1900 ft^2 house on a standard-size lot a couple years ago for $160k. Can't do /that/ on the coasts.

        Not as much to do, culturally speaking, and you have to live around Republicans, but overall it's not a bad life.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by shipbrick (929823)
      You're joking at the end there, but that has at least some degree a truth to it. As a molecular biologist, I have a very negative connotation of Kansas due to their intelligent design/evolution fiasco. And as such, I would never consider moving and raising children there. I'm sure I'm an over-reactor, but I'd bet some other scientists feel the same way too.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by magarity (164372)

        Then perhaps the influx of scientists will result in some changes if a few of them care enough to get on the local school boards and/or at least attend the meetings and speak up. That part of this located-in-Kansas debate is the only bit that sounds win-win.

      • As a molecular biologist in training who went to high school in Kansas during the "just a theory" phase I have to say a few things

        1. While a very boring place and more socially conservative, Kansas isn't too bad. There are a few nuts, there are a few nuts in every state of varying varieties. Most kansans don't believe in intelligent design. They don't. I have a negative opinion of kansas because they're more red and there's not much there, but it's still a bit offensive to me to hear them mischaracteriz

        • Kind of interesting to me how much vitriol there is specifically towards republicans (but of course more general towards midwestern/rural/etc -- though to read the comments you would think Kansas was Afghanistan...) in this thread (not saying you in particular, though I'm assuming that's what you meant when you mentioned red).

          Kind of interesting how many people have talked about hating living near republicans, not liking republicans, etc...don't think I've ever heard someone say they hate to live next to de

          • Kind of interesting how many people have talked about hating living near republicans, not liking republicans, etc...don't think I've ever heard someone say they hate to live next to democrats. ~shrug~ so much for tolerance :-P

            Seems like there are more people on slashdot, and the internet as a whole who are to the left of the political spectrum. The republicans definitely do complain about living next to democrats, they just do it at their rodeos, churches, and klan meetings.

            Okay okay okay, that last one wasn't fair, and the others may have been at least questionable. My point though is that democrats are overrepresented online, so that's at least some of it right there. I've heard plenty of republicans complain about living a

          • by magarity (164372)

            though to read the comments you would think Kansas was Afghanistan
             
            No, if it were in Afghanistan then cultural relativism would say it was OK for them to have any level of bizarre and/or dangerous religious beliefs.

    • by gardyloo (512791) on Monday July 27, 2009 @08:34PM (#28845887)

      Look at it this way: at least in Kansas, there's no way an escaped pathogen could evolve!

    • Nice idea, but a little too romantic for reality.

      The temperature in Fairbanks, Alaska, where I lived for 10 years, varies 160 degrees F. from season to season. It was 95F. the day I moved there and I've seen -65F. in winter.

      On the other hand, I've froze my ASS off in the Mojave Desert on numerous occasions. Woke up to snow one morning.

      That being said, the inconsistency of the weather in these two locations is probably more of a hindrance then help. An island, with a dry climate(desert island), far from usua

  • by qdaku (729578) on Monday July 27, 2009 @07:57PM (#28845537)

    Revolutionary. It will be resistant to terrorists attacks because it will obviously be _guarded_ by tornadoes.

  • by Tanman (90298) on Monday July 27, 2009 @08:01PM (#28845563)

    It's the fact that they're moving it at all. This stuff is currently secure. It's locked up in a building that is supposed to be able to handle a dropped vial or something. It seems to my admittedly non-biotech-schooled mind that moving the stuff for a week is far more dangerous and has a much higher risk factor than letting it sit in the same place for 50 years.

    • I've posted this elsewhere on this story, but it's worth pointing out that we've been transporting nuclear material by road for quite some time, and without major incident.

      Part of the reason behind this is that the containers used for shipping are deigned to withstand [youtube.com] a collision from a fully-loaded high speed train.

      That sort of accident is extremely unlikely, given that trains are not permitted to run at high speeds through grade crossings, while commercial/hazmat truck drivers are required to make a full

  • Im not exactly.... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Darkness404 (1287218) on Monday July 27, 2009 @08:03PM (#28845605)
    I'm not exactly sure what the big deal is. Yes, tornados do happen, however -every- place has its risks. Any place located on any cost has the possibility of hurricanes, California has a lot of earthquakes, etc. And honestly the chances of a tornado hitting that exact same place and causing any sort of major damage is slim.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jpstanle (1604059)
      I agree. After all, the CDC is headquartered about five miles from downtown Atlanta. Not in the middle of tornado alley, but the area is not impervious to severe weather. And the CDC is home to some really nasty pathogens like smallpox and Ebola. So long as the building is sufficiently hardened, I don't see the problem. We can build containment buildings for nuclear facilities that can withstand direct impacts by commercial jets; surely this proposed facility can be hardened to mitigate the risk presented
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Any place located on any cost has the possibility of hurricanes,

      Correction: any place located on the East Coast is subject to hurricanes because they travel from east to west. Yes, there's other weather issues on the West Coast as well as earthquakes in California and your point is well taken. Just wanted to correct the part about hurricanes.

    • by Grishnakh (216268)

      Sorry, no. Some places are simply much more disaster-prone than others. The Gulf Coast is prone to hurricanes, as is much of the east coast (much more so towards the south). California has earthquakes. Kansas and Nebraska have frequent tornadoes. Any place on any coast, if you're very close to the coast, is prone to tsunamis.

      But there are lots of places that aren't prone to disasters at all. North Dakota, for instance. When was the last time you heard of a disaster there? Or Montana. Here in Arizon

      • Some places are simply much more disaster-prone than others.

        And some disasters are larger than others. A hurricane, for example, can devastate huge swathes of land because even a "normal"-sized hurricane is hundreds of miles across and can chug along for days or even weeks. But even the biggest, nastiest, meanest tornadoes don't get much above a mile wide and typically blow out very quickly. And those are the rarest of the rare; the combination of short lifespan and small size means tornadoes tend to be

      • But there are lots of places that aren't prone to disasters at all. North Dakota, for instance. When was the last time you heard of a disaster there? Or Montana.

        North Dakota, perhaps, but it's not all that stable in Montana. Montana has earthquakes, geysers and a lot of hot rock near the surface. Ref. Yellowstone Park [wikipedia.org]).

  • MRI (Midwest Research Institute) is already in tornado alley at Kansas City, Missouri, just off the UMKC campus. MRI holds the largest archive of communicable pathogens in the world, down the road from the largest public-private science and technology library in the world (Linda Hall, from which library we faxed the University of Tehran [at DHS' approval] almost the entire bibliography of U.S. nuclear research a few years ago just before The Media(TM) started its 'Iran has nuclear tech' scare).

    It makes per

  • East Coast = Hurricanes
    West Cost = Earthquakes
    Midwest = Tornadoes

    Here's a thought: regardless of where it's build, the dangerous part will be underground. Last I heard, tornadoes don't burrow.

    • by Blakey Rat (99501)

      Here's a thought: regardless of where it's build, the dangerous part will be underground. Last I heard, tornadoes don't burrow.

      Yah, but gophers do! Think about it...

  • What do you expect from a region of the country that has been largely responsible for the tilting of our national diet towards corn? Teaching of religious "alternatives" to evolution? Unconstitutional "homeland" "security"? Preemptive warmaking in the name of "freedom"?

    Thanks to the political primaries and low population density, a bunch of ignorant and extremely socially conservative idiots have been driving and heavily influencing our political landscape.

  • Clearly (Score:4, Funny)

    by MadUndergrad (950779) on Monday July 27, 2009 @08:26PM (#28845799)

    They should put the lab in an underground complex under Raccoon City, Colorado. What could possibly go wrong?

  • That's a perfect choice, its not like there are any devistating natural disasters there that involve high speed far reaching winds and could destroy the lab and spread the airborne pathogens contained within at the same time!

    Wait... there is something I'm missing here but these damn ruby red slippers keep popping in my head and interrupting my thought process...

    Ah well, at least there aren't any actual people in KS.

  • by Nimey (114278) on Monday July 27, 2009 @09:00PM (#28846103) Homepage Journal

    we don't get hit with tornadoes all that often. They do happen, and small towns do get properly torn-up by them, but one of those only hits every few years. Most of our tornadoes touch down in uninhabited areas, because there's a /lot/ of space that's farm fields, pastures, or forested. Also, I'd much rather be here than where hurricanes or earthquakes or forest fires are apt to hit, because tornadoes by their nature affect only a small area.

    Taco, would you get around to firing kdawson already? His sensationalism was amusing during the election cycle, but it's getting really tiresome.

    • Also, I'd much rather be here than where hurricanes or earthquakes or forest fires are apt to hit, because tornadoes by their nature affect only a small area.

      Hurricanes don't often rip (properly constructed) buildings to shreds. Tornadoes obliterate anything in their path.

      Both hurricanes and forest fires are easily "built for." Tornadoes? Not so much.

      How hilarious that a bunch of idiots on slashdot with virtually no qualifications are questioning the validity of a study done by the GAO, which pres

  • In short, don't forget that a lot of other places fought AGAINST the biolab. For instance in a fairly rural portion of North Carolina:

    http://www.newsobserver.com/business/story/835757.html [newsobserver.com]

  • Before starting, I should probably mention that I actually live in Manhattan, KS and attend Kansas State University, the proposed site for the lab.

    I have to start by say that not putting something here because of tornadoes is a pretty thin claim, as tornadoes are a pretty rare occurrence by all accounts, especially in Manhattan due to it's location. In the seven years I've lived here only one has even brushed a portion of the town. While for some this may be too much of a risk, there are plenty of precau
  • It's standard practice to at least mention what an acronym stands for before using it, especially when it's not well known. The GAO is the Government Accountability Office [gao.gov], which is apparently designed to provide some oversight to what Congress does.

  • Other bad places (Score:3, Informative)

    by ebonum (830686) on Monday July 27, 2009 @10:17PM (#28846751)

    Oddly enough, we already have facilities in highly questionable locations.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biosafety_Level [wikipedia.org]

    Look for:
    "National Biocontainment Facility"
    "Shope Laboratory"

    These are Biosafety level 4 facilities in Galveston, Texas.

    They have hurricanes in Galveston... Big ones...

  • My house has been sitting in Kansas since 1964. It has never received tornado damage. It was never built to survive a tornado either. The bio-defense facility is going to be a modern and more-or-less tornado proof building. Simple construction techniques can make buildings pretty much indestructible. An earth wall with a 3-4 foot high concrete wall on top of that with a total height the same as the facility would be enough to protect the facility from even the most powerful tornadoes. I just don't see

It is impossible to travel faster than light, and certainly not desirable, as one's hat keeps blowing off. -- Woody Allen

Working...