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Biotech Security Science

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

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

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  • 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.

  • 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 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!

  • by techno-vampire ( 666512 ) on Monday July 27, 2009 @08:32PM (#28845867) Homepage
    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 magarity ( 164372 ) on Monday July 27, 2009 @08:47PM (#28845993)

    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.

  • Re:"Hey, I know!" (Score:2, Interesting)

    by snarkasaurus ( 627205 ) on Monday July 27, 2009 @08:50PM (#28846025)

    I'm rated troll now. :)

    But on topic,
    1. yes, samples come from somewhere but they don't escape to anywhere important if you crash on an isolated island. They do if you crash in Kansas. Or drop the sample box on the runway.
    3. There's plenty enough people in the mid-west for an escaped bug to spread through. And isn't the point of a secure Level 5 lab to make people -safer-?
    4. People will be expected to -live- in Kansas and drive to work. (Thereby radically increasing the chance of spreading bugs, btw.) No one will be expected to live full time on Dr. No's Pacific island. They will do rotations and live someplace where they want to be.
    5. No, you didn't.

    Isolated island good. Farmer's field in Kansas, bad.

  • by Shifty Jim ( 862102 ) on Monday July 27, 2009 @09:47PM (#28846481) Homepage
    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 precautions that can be taken to lessen the risk.

    More importantly, the campaigning for the location of this lab and all the money and frills that come with it has been very competitive and heated over the last couple years with a number of accusations and claims coming from all the sites. A good number of them coming from the contender site that was almost chosen in Texas that has been very critical of the Kansas location. Though it is rarely mentioned that the section of Texas in question has a greater likelihood of tornadoes by a large margin.
  • Local Opinion (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 27, 2009 @11:47PM (#28847383)

    I think that it is funny that it is just now getting to the news about the NBAF facility being built in Kansas. Having lived the past 2 years in the town it is moving to (Manhattan, KS) I have already heard lots about it.

    One of the reasons that it is moving to KS is the fact that there are many people who are experts in these diseases already in Manhattan. Kansas State University has a good Animal science program.

    Tornadoes should not be that big of deal. If they are smart about their construction it should be able to withstand almost anything. Other people have also mentioned the small likelihood of a tornado hitting the facility. There is a very large amount of area that tornado alley covers and relatively little of it is populated densley.

    Some people don't like the fact that this dangerous of facility is coming to Kansas, but many people are glad for the economic boost it will provide.

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