No NBAF in Kansas

Real Biosecurity for the Heartland

Who wants this thing anyway?

Posted by Dale on September 5, 2008

It is hard to sit through hours of public commentary on a draft environmental impact statement, as I learned back in July when the DHS road show came to town. It’s even harder when most of the people speaking are just spouting boosterish rah-rah rhetoric.

To stave off boredom, I decided to keep a tally sheet, counting the number of speakers for and against. I also counted how many on each side were local and how they were dressed. The numbers should not be terribly surprising:

  • Speakers in favor: 32
  • Speakers opposed: 10

Of the 32 for:

  • From elsewhere: 19
  • Local: 13

The 32 for were dressed:

  • Suits: 31
  • Casual: 1

Of the 10 against, seven were local and nine of ten were dressed casually. From this casual sample (this was the afternoon session), I would draw the following conclusions. Large business interests from other Kansas cities want to make money, and the fact that they wear suits means they probably have an office job in a tower somewhere. People opposed nearly always come from the area (the three who were not local all live within 30-40 miles and own animals) and tend not to wear suits when they have something important to say.

Do we really want a facility that a bunch of suit-wearing CEOs and professional lobbyists think is a swell idea? When has that ever been a good idea?

I would also conclude from these numbers that the claim that this process has gone on largely under the radar is a correct assumption. Clearly, business interests have been contacted and made part of the process, but average citizens are still pretty much in the dark about what’s going on and their right to speak up. It was also not lost on me that the comment sessions were held in a K-State facility; even worse, a facility that has no proximal parking whatsoever. This was not coincidental, and amounts to bad faith or perhaps even an attempt at intimidation on the part of one of the NBAF’s biggest boosters, namely, the K-State administration. What employee in their right mind other than a tenured faculty member would stand in a university room and speak against the powers that be?


19 Responses to “Who wants this thing anyway?”

  1. Fed Up said

    You people make me sick with your whining and hand wringing. Deb Nuss is just trying to get the NBAF strategically close to her husband’s university so he can build his resume. She should go tell Knoxville, TN how to run their town and leave Manhattan alone! The lack of comments on this site should be proof enough that you have very little support for your cause.

  2. Dale said

    Thanks for increasing our comment count, Fed Up. You’re entitled to your opinion, as we are ours, but I would request that you a) refrain from personal attacks and polemic, and b) comment on the post at hand.

    Many of our supporters are ranchers, and as such they have little time or inclination to spend their days online. Also, many are older, and the digital divide is very real. If Manhattan ends up as the selected site, I would predict it will become quite clear how much opposition lurks quietly in this area.

  3. I for one think this is a great site and rely on it to find out how the local people where NBAF might be built are reacting to it. Most folks out there are too concerned with surviving, understandable enough, however like many things in life … bad things like NBAF come up and bite you when you don’t take care of them early on.

    I liked the informal poll, and it must hit some nerve with the greed heads behind NBAF in Kansas, to prompt a comment like the one above.


  4. Deb Nuss said

    Fed Up, unless you and I have met and discussed this issue, I would caution you to not presume to know what my motivations are as you could end up looking as if you are uninformed or engaging in some kind of vendetta. I hesitate to say that you would end up looking “stupid” or “foolish” as I tend to try to not engage in those types of personal attacks.

    And since clearly I conduct my politics out in the open, there’s nothing that prevents you from contacting me personally to engage in a conversation about this. You, on the other hand, hide behind a screen name and cannot be held accountable for your actions or your comments.

    To your assertion that my motivation is to see that the NBAF is located close to my husband’s university so he can build his resume, that’s just silly. Knoxville, Tennessee isn’t even one of the finalists for the NBAF, nor is the University of Tennessee collaborating with any of the sites that are finalists. And if Knoxville, TN was one of the finalists and in the middle of the nation’s cattle production corridor and I was living there, I would be opposed to it being located there too. In fact, I am opposed to it being located anywhere on the mainland, not just in Manhattan and am communicating with elected officials at all levels regarding my opposition.

    As Dale noted in his post, many of those who are opposed to the NBAF being located in Manhattan are ranchers and others who are employed at institutions where they are concerned that they might be retaliated against, which is a sad commentary about the political dynamics associated with this issue. Of course, I guess they could hide behind a screen name like you do. As I stated previously, it always easier and safer to criticize when people don’t know who you are and what your motivations might be, but then I am not telling you anything you don’t already know.

  5. Mike McCormick said

    Nice site.

    It’s inspiring to find another community that is actively opposing the NBAF (and a website that looks great and has a lot of useful information).

    Keep up the good work!

  6. “and the fact that they wear suits means they probably have an office job in a tower somewhere.”

    I own a suit, and I don’t have an office job in a tower. You liberal lunatics make me laugh!

  7. Dale said

    Of course you have a suit, Andy. So do I. I think you missed the point of this little exercise in demographics, but given your aggressive language, I don’t suppose you’re much of a deep thinker.

    Incidentally, thanks for visiting and reading the site. Glad we could make your day with some humor and so appreciate your efforts at boosting our site stats.

  8. deepthinker? said

    Dale, how is Andy’s language anymore aggressive than your illogical attempt to evaluate people’s motivations by their dress. Additionally, you termed the exercise “demographics” which is not accurate. You’re misinforming people and then trying to duck and cover under snarky little quibs and non sequitur arguments.

    If you want to talk about demographics, let’s talk about your demographics. Are you affected by increased federal investment in Manhattan or is your pay certain no matter what happens? Are you currently looking for work in the bio sciences field or are you a sideliner with a NIMBY complex? Do you have any skin in the game or are you just another mouth?

    • Dale said

      Thanks for visiting our site, deepthinker. I don’t think equating an impromptu survey with calling people lunatics is valid, but you have your views. And, yes, it is a demographic exercise, being related to statistical traits of a set of human subjects. No, it’s not misleading, it’s a representation of who was there and how they identified themselves; I merely tallied what I saw and heard. One can only wish that the press would also report what they see and hear rather than what they assume.

      Hmm, so having a family and friends living in close proximity to a lab that will handle deadly pathogens–in tornado country, no less–doesn’t qualify in your book as having “any skin in the game.” When did salary or grant funding ascend in importance to the level of clean air, clean water, and a right to have a say in the health and wellbeing of one’s community? Of course I’m affected. It’s the people who live elsewhere lobbying for this that you should direct this question toward, not someone who lives in Manhattan.

      Incidentally, I don’t hide my comments (nor did Andy) behind a generic username.

  9. deepthinker? said

    “a demographic exercise, being related to statistical traits of a set of human subjects”

    So blood pressure is also a demographic. Stop pretending that you know what you’re talking about and stop hoisting yourself over using your real name. Just because your career is not vulnerable to speaking out does not make it so for the rest of the world.

    It is tough to see whether you are arguing against the research itself or that the research takes place near your interests. If it is the former, then this world is lucky that people like you don’t get to make important decisions. If it is the latter, then the world is lucky that the people of Atlanta are not as self interested as you are when they accepted the CDC.

    The work done in these labs saves and protects lives and livlihood. The only livlihood you seem to be interested in is your own.

    • Dale said

      You’re entitled to your opinions, deepthinker, as much as I am. I assume we live in the same community, too, and one thing that I appreciate about Manhattan and the many communities like it is that people on two sides of an issue–whether it be a smoking ban, downtown redevelopment, or even the NBAF–can still coexist without engaging in gratuitous insults.

      Declaring something to be de facto good or noble does not in fact make it so, just as labeling someone unpatriotic is an attempt at marginalizing people who disagree with you. The truth always lies somewhere in the middle.

  10. deepthinker? said

    You said “can still coexist without engaging in gratuitous insults.”

    Just a few lines below where you said this “I don’t suppose you’re much of a deep thinker”

    would you say this is “marginalizing people who disagree with you” or trying to “appreciate about Manhattan and the many communities like it is that people on two sides of an issue”.

    • Dale said

      Touché. It’s been a bad week for NBAF opponents, and I suppose I’m a bit cranky. I apologize for responding in a less-than-productive fashion.

  11. Save_PIADC said


    You’re personal spat with Dale aside, I’d like to take issue with a few things you’ve said.

    1) Dale’s concern over tornadoes is real and valid. If I’m not mistaken, there have been dozens of tornadoes in the county Manhattan sits in since 1950. More to the point, a tornado just hit in June of 2008 – a block away from the proposed NBAF site. If my memory serves me correctly, the estimated wind speed of this twister exceeded the speed to which NBAF is being engineered to withstand.

    2) Drop the cliched (and misplaced) comparisons with the CDC. There is no comparison. None. NBAF will be the largest BSL-4 laboratory in the world with nearly twice the BSL-4 square footage of CDC. There is also no comparison between BSL-4 work conducted with large animals and work performed on primates and small animals conducted inside safety cabinets. It goes without saying that large animals produce many pounds of manure/waste each day and certain species produce millions of virus particle each hour. Researchers and support staff work in/around this waste and can potentially transport pathogens outside of the lab. It’s why the staff at Plum Island maintains a 5-day personally recognizant quarantine to keep away from susceptible species (there are almost none nearby). You’re taking a big leap of faith if you think that EVERY contractor, custodian, guard and technician in an area with HUNDREDS of THOUSANDS of cattle will always maintain this quarantine.

    The fact remains that DHS has publicly identified only 2 diseases that will be studied in NBAF that require BSL-4 protection – Nipah and Hendra viruses. Over 50k square feet of BSL-4 space for relatively obscure diseases. Who will fund this research? This is a serious question given that African Swine Fever (ASFV) research has been discontinued at Plum Island at a facility that had decades of expertise and the personnel to perform it. If ASFV virus, a real and growing threat, can’t get funding in this environment, who will fund Hendra and Nipah research? What about funding for Contagious Bovine Pleuropneumonia? Who will fund research for that?

    I think the real question is: What will be studied in that 50,000 square feet of BSL-4 space? It surely won’t “lie fallow” and unused. If you believe that that much BSL-4 space will be consumed by Nipah and Hendra research alone, I have some beachfront property in Arizona to sell you.

  12. deepthinker? said

    This opposition to NBAF has brought about two situations that seem to fuel the hysteria: The pseudo expert and specter of total government incompetence. The first was perfectly demonstrated as you pretend to be an engineer and evaluate the facilities resistance to a tornado. Again, your attempt to dismiss comparisons with CDC by calling them misplaced and clichéd. Yet both are high security bio labs with vulnerable populations living nearby. Both had a tornado touch down nearby in the last year. Both deal with waste, animals, contractors, custodians, guards and technicians. And isn’t the production of virus particles more a function of the virus activity rather than the relative size of the animal?
    Researchers work around hazardous substances everyday and everyday, we as a country take a giant leap of faith that people in charge of nuclear materials, poisonous materials, explosives, bacteria and viruses are going to be competent.
    And here’s where your tin foil hat starts to show from underneath your nit beanie.
    “Over 50k square feet of BSL-4 space for relatively obscure diseases. Who will fund this research? …Who will fund research for that? I think the real question is: What will be studied in that 50,000 square feet of BSL-4 space? It surely won’t “lie fallow” and unused…”
    The 60’s era fundamental mistrust of the government and it intentions is at the heart of this argument. Self appointed expert activists throw around scary words and numbers and hope the fear of the ever growing government will be enough to scare off something they don’t want.
    This protest is not about the environment or safety or anything noble. It is about self-interest and resistance to change simply for being resistant to change. Funny, no one seams interested in answering whether this research should be conducted and I think the silence makes the truth glaringly obvious. You know this research is important. You know if the research was not conducted, and we do not pursue a cure for some of these diseases, the outcome may be far worse. What you want, but will not say, is that you want the research to occur you just don’t want it in your backyard.

  13. Save_PIADC said


    Whoa! Hold on! Those are some mighty big accusations you are throwing out there re: those that have valid concerns about this move. I’ll let those personal attacks roll off and address your post in the following order:

    1) I never pretended to be an engineer, though I do have 2 graduate degrees in other disciplines. It is an incontrovertible fact that a tornado touched down in June ONE BLOCK from the proposed NBAF site and there have been dozens in/around Manhattan since 1950.

    2) Again, your continued (and tiresome) comparison of NBAF with CDC is inappropriate. For starters, animal research at CDC is performed within safety cabinets/gloveboxes and is done on small animals. There are no “gloveboxes” for cows, sheep and swine. The animal room itself is the “glovebox” and people have to work/walk/kneel inside of it. The volume of waste produced by, say, mice and rhesus monkeys is incomparible to a cow – let alone a room containing 25-50 of them for a vaccine challenge. Given this reality, there is a chance (however slight) for mechanical transmission of the pathogen.

    3) Different species produce differing amount of virus – even when they have the same disease. Some species serve as amplifiers. A good example is the case of swine who are infected with Foot-and-Mouth disease. Pigs produce a tremendous amount of virus in their respiratory tract – as much as ONE MILLION virus particles per liter of exhaled air. Cattle are very susceptible to airborne transmission given the large tidal volume (big lungs) when they breathe.

    4) You levied the charge that I “mistrusted government.” I don’t think that I do, though I do mistrust the motivations of some looking to make public policy decisions without sufficient discussion/debate/input – especially one as momentous as deciding to bring live-virus Foot-and-Mouth Disease onto the mainland eight days before the expiration of their Presidential appointment. What I did try to convey is the inconsistency between the goals stated by champions of NBAF and the current funding realities for foreign animal disease research. NBAF supporters have identified an ambitious list of 10 diseases which “may” be studied in an operational NBAF. Some of them are curious because an existing programs for one of these diseases – African Swine Fever (ASFV) – has been discontinued at Plum Island. Plum Island had an active African Swine Fever program – with the facilities, space and experts until 2004, when DHS refocused its research priority and “zeroed out AFSV reaserch.”

    Now, if the funding doesn’t exist for a real foreign animal disease “on the move” like AFSV – why do you think that this federal money will suddenly come from in a more austere funding/budget environment? If we can’t fund ASFV research, who will fund Nipah and Hendra research? As of 2008, there have been only four cases of Hendra virus reported in humans (two died). Are we really to believe that this will be funding priority in coming budgets? Color me doubtful.

    I don’t think you appreciate just how “big” 50,000 square feet of BSL-4 space is. Again, it is about twice the size of the BSL-4 space at CDC – a place that researches everything from Anthrax to Yellow Fever.

    So, I say again, if the justification for building 2x the BSL-4 space of CDC rests solely on Nipah and Hendra virus, what will be using all of that space for? This is a serious question of public policy, not “anti-government” paranoia.

    Perhaps more to the point, why can’t we have this dialogue/discussion? If Manhattan truly is the “best” site for NBAF, why must the final decision be made on 1/12/09? If this truly is the best course of action, why can’t we rely on Governor Sebelius’ promises to “talk to Governor Napolitano” about how great a site Kansas is for NBAF and adequately digest the over 1,000 page EIS?

    Oh, one more thing, the Texas Farm Bureau just passed a resolution opposing the relocation of Plum Island’s activities to the mainland.

  14. deepthinker? said

    “I do have 2 graduate degrees in other disciplines.” –Why don’t I find that surprising.

    “Given this reality, there is a chance (however slight) for mechanical transmission of the pathogen.”- Still the engineer. Any proof of this claim Handy Andy? Guess those degrees aren’t in logic.
    “Pigs produce a tremendous amount of virus in their respiratory tract – as much as ONE MILLION virus particles per liter of exhaled air.” – And humans can produce 10 billion virus particles of HIV per day so unless you have some sort of relevant comparison, stop trying to scare everyone with your all caps claims. And since you are such a great engineer, please tell us how you know these claimed high numbers of virus particles will overcome protective measures carried out by actual engineers.

    “mistrusted government.” I don’t think that I do, though I do mistrust the motivations of some looking to make public policy decisions without sufficient discussion/debate/input “ – Welcome to the government and it sounds like you are doing a little dance around saying you distrust the government when they don’t take your viewpoints as fact. What about your motivations? How can everyone be sure you’re not just worried it will affect your property value or the bicycle parking at your favorite coffee shop?
    Now, if the funding doesn’t exist for a real foreign animal disease “on the move” like AFSV – why do you think that this federal money will suddenly come from in a more austere funding/budget environment? – The same reason I think we will find an answer to the cost of healthcare. I like and trust our new President. You should to. You would not think we would be building roads and bridges in this austere funding/budget environment either.

    “I don’t think you appreciate just how “big” 50,000 square feet of BSL-4 space is. Again, it is about twice the size of the BSL-4 space at CDC – a place that researches everything from Anthrax to Yellow Fever.”- I don’t think you appreciate how big Atlanta is, the fact that the viruses the CDC works with are highly contagious and can be easily spread by people and the fact that the facility is located in the near middle of the city. Plus, their facility is older and many improvements to the construction of BSL labs have been made since CDC was constructed. They have succeeded and so can NBAF.

    “This is a serious question of public policy” – No it is not. You never once questioned whether or not the research should be conducted. You’re only worry is that it will be conducted near you and you don’t want it.

    “Oh, one more thing, the Texas Farm Bureau just passed a resolution opposing the relocation of Plum Island’s activities to the mainland”- Of course they did, it’s a brilliant PR move. It makes TFB look bold to its membership on an effort that, if they were truly serious, they would have protested years before a site was selected. Next for the TFB, passing a resolution condemning drought.

  15. Save_PIADC said


    I guess it would be helpful to state that I don’t live in Kansas so your accusations of “NIMBYism” are misplaced.

    Again, I will respond to your comments point-by-point.

    1) Mechanical Transmission of live FMD. Reference: Foreign Animal Diseases: 7th edition published by the US Animal Health Assn. in 2008. Page 264: “the potential for humans to harbor the FMDV in their respiratory tract has been investigated. It was noted that FMDV can be carried for a short period in the throats of people. Sampling of human subjects who had been in isolation rooms containing FMDV-infected animals demonstrated that the virus could be recovered from the nose, throat and saliva of 7-8 people up to 24 hours after immediately exiting the room.” In the history of accidental releases of FMD from bio-containment facilities, the overwhelming majority have ocurred due to human error.

    2) Inapt comparison of Human HIV to FMD. You say that humans produce billions of HIV virus particles a day. So what? Folks don’t transmit HIV to each other through aerosolization the way swine and cattle transmit FMDV to susceptible species. Again, citing the text above on p. 264: “Pigs are notorious for excreting large amounts of FMDV (estimated at 10 million to 10 billion infective doese per day).”

    3) Protective measures can fail. While the risk is small, the GAO and others have cited the number of bio-containment laboratory errors over the past few years. Engineering can mitigate risk, but it cannot eliminate those risks. That axiom should be considered before moving live-virus FMD research to Kansas especially given the risk of tornadoes. June 2008 anyone? Moreover, Congress has stipulated that before any money can be spent on the design or construction of NBAF, DHS as must demonstrate to the satisfaction of the Government Accountability Office (GAO) that live virus can be safely conducted on the US mainland. Amazingly, this analysis was never even conducted before the proposal to build NBAF.

    4) Funding for Foreign Animal Disease Research. I think you fundamentally miss my point here. Where is the consensus to fund these proposed programs? Who put Contagious Bovine Pleuropneumonia on the NBAF priority reserch list? Answer: it wasn’t USDA. Who seriously believes that such a program will be launched? If DHS deemed this a priority it could have started such a program at Plum Island – a facility it has owned since 2003. I could go on. Of the 10 diseases that DHS has proposed studying at NBAF – 8 of them can be studied at the current Plum Island facility. Why are they not being studied there? Why was ASFV research discontinued. If these diseases are such a grave, gathering threat, why must we wait until 2015 – at the earliest – to begin research on them when we have the capacity to study 8 of them now?
    Again, Nipah and Hendra viruses were the only BSL-4 agents used to justify the current proposal. It is inconceivable that active research programs on these viruses will consume 50,000 sqare feet of BSL-4 space when CDC studies dozens of agents in about 1/2 that space.

    5) I don’t there’s any comparison to Road/Bridge infrastructure proposals with NBAF. First off, the permanent positions are a “wash” with those that already exist at Plum Island and over 90% of the proposed NBAF mission can be accomplished there. The construction jobs can be used on any project – especially ones in states with higher unemployment, greater needs/population and, oh yes, less skewed towards a minority political party.

    6) CDC Comparisons. What part of the terms “glove box” and “safety cabinet” don’t you understand? As I’ve said repeatedly, there is no comparison to small animal resaerch and large animal research. Just because you want something to be “fail safe” doesn’t make it so in reality. Accidents happen.

    7) Public Policy concerns. I absolutely have questioned whether this research should be done at the scale proposed. We already have the capacity to do much of this work and it’s not being done and there has been no clamor in Congress, on the part of industry or the USDA to do it! The only clamor has come from DHS. If we are to do this resaerch on the scale proposed, we should conduct some analysis of how to go about it in the safest and most cost-effective manner. This analysis has never been done. NBAF was offered by DHS as a false choice – build it or live with Plum Island in its current state. This binary, false-choice ignored the host of options that range between: an expansion of Plum for BSL-3 work; BSL-4 work done in an expansion of existing BSL-4 facilities with a track record of safety; or a range of other options. None of this analysis was ever done. DHS presented a “take it or leave it” approach to NBAF. A good treatise on this discussion can be found on the following site. I recommend the first 30 or so pages:

    You praised our new President, but fail to address my question as to why this decision must be made on January 12, 2009 and published in the very last issue of the Federal Register published under this administration. Again, if this is a worthy project and the “obvious” choice for NBAF, why not let a new administration share in the decision? Sounds like a sure-fire way to show bi-partisan support to me. After all, it will be their FY 2010 Budget. Given the glaring errors, inconsistencies and ommissions of the NBAF Draft EIS (documented exhaustively in the link above), it is inconceivable that no public comment will be allowed on the final EIS exceeding 1,000 pages.

    I think the real answer is that things aren’t as clear cut for Manahttan and NBAF after the “decider” – DHS Undersecretary Jay Cohen – leaves DHS next month. He has a pre-existing relationship with Tom Thornton. Thornton will have considerably less influence with a new “decider.”

    8) Dismissal of the Texas Farm Bureau. This is just the latest group to question the decision to move live-virus FMD to the US mainalnd. They join the proud ranks of the Nebraska Independent Cattlemen and National Grange, among others, who question this plan. On a positive note, I’m glad you haven’t accused them of wearing “tin foil hats.”

  16. dylan woodward said

    this is the most worthless idea ever!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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