No NBAF in Kansas

Real Biosecurity for the Heartland

Archive for February, 2011

Letter to Livestock Producers

Posted by tmanney on February 1, 2011

We are sending the following letter to livestock producers in Kansas and surrounding states to inform them of the risk to their livelihood that is posed by the NBAF, in Kansas or anywhere else on the U. S. Mainland. We are urging them to contact their legislators and tell them of their real concern about having Foot and Mouth Desease Research conducted in the middle of cattle and other livestock production.

To: Livestock Producers

Re: National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF): new threat to U.S. livestock exports.

The Department of Homeland Security is ready to build a huge laboratory to study diseases that might threaten our livestock industry if they were imported. The most contagious would be Foot-and-Mouth-Disease (FMD).

During the site selection, Congress asked the General Accountability Office (GAO) to study the risks of permitting FMD research on mainland United States. The GAO released its conclusions in 2008 with the title “HIGH-CONTAINMENT BIOSAFETY LABORATORIES: DHS Lacks Evidence to Conclude That Foot-and-Mouth Disease Research Can Be Done Safely on the U.S. Mainland”. The location selected by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for this one-of-a-kind lab is Manhattan, KS.

Alarmed by the GAO’s report, members of the Appropriations Committee asked Homeland Security to do a more thorough study of the risks of building this facility in Manhattan –  before releasing money to build the lab. And they asked a committee of experts appointed by the National Academy of Sciences to review the methods used by DHS in this evaluation.  Last November, the Academy committee released its review with some conclusions which should concern all livestock operators.

  • DHS Assumptions are over-optimistic partly because of huge differences between working under a sleeved isolation box, and working in direct contact with large animals and their excretions.
  • In trying to meet a budget, safety shortcuts are being made in the lab’s designs that increase the probability of an FMD release. Examples are the cutting of redundant HEPA filters (Pg 52-53), or building the lab to withstand no more than an F2 tornado (Pg 33). Manhattan experienced an F4 tornado in 2008 which damaged buildings next to the NBAF site.  Furthermore, long term maintenance is critical. (Weathered gaskets and air filters will have to be replaced through all future administrations and budgets…without fail.)
  • KSU Vet Medicine is next door and livestock research feedlots are less than two miles away. The NBAF site is directly cattycorner from football overflow parking. Large crowds leaving KSU events or games could very well carry the virus particles in dust or mud home. (Pg 21).
  • Based on the DHS estimates, the reviewers calculated a cumulative risk of an outbreak as being a coin toss within 30 years of the lab’s completion and a 70% probability by the end of its life (Pg 30).  This is not a “low probability” event as presented by Homeland Security. Calculating the cumulative risk this way is often used by institutions in locating nuclear installations or by research scientists to determine probability of infectious disease outbreaks.
  • Detection and destruction of infected herds will not be as rapid as DHS expects, so the duration and spread of an infection is likely to be much more extensive (Pg 38).

Probably only those with disposed of livestock will be compensated and then by whom?  Faced with billions of dollars in losses, will your insurance company consider this an “act of God”?   Operators of uninfected ranches and feedlots in every state will suffer a loss of both American and export markets with the overall toll projected to be in the $9 to 50 billion range (Pg 58).

Enclosed are the executive summaries of both the GAO and the National Academy of Sciences reports and a CD with both full reports, a list and contact information of the House and Senate Appropriation Subcommittee members.  If you believe that this could hurt your investments, look at the portions of the full report that apply to you.

Congress has yet to appropriate the actual construction money, but that could be done within the next two months.  This time period will be critical in determining whether the lab will be built. As area ranchers, scientists and Manhattan residents we ask that you:

1.   Have your family, friends in the business, and livestock organizations, call or email the members of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees to NOT release the construction funds.  Join us in calling for an injunction against further construction until the committee formed by the National Academies of Sciences amends their study to confirm that a BSL-3Ag and BSL-4 large animal laboratory can be safely placed at the Manhattan, KS site.  In the previous study, the committee was instructed by Congress not to include this in their scope of study.  Copy, cut, paste any and all of our material.

2.   Ask for repeal of the previous legislative language (inserted in the Senate) that requires DHS to sell Plum Island Animal Disease Center in the event another site is chosen for NBAF.  The Plum Island sale language forces an unnecessary urgency and requires the government to sell the island, liquidate its existing lab and apply all proceeds to NBAF. The Plum Island sale language creates an artificial timeline and makes this a “done deal.”

While this research may be important, it must only be done in the proper perspective of its risks.  We just ask that this it be kept on an island where the prevailing winds blow infections out to sea instead of over surrounding states …in Kansas, that’s from any direction the wind blows.  A release of FMD virus on an island will not have a chance to infect nearby cattle headed for sale barns and feed lots before it is even detected.

Proponents of placing NBAF in Kansas responded to the NAS evaluation by saying that this facility is only in the planning stage, and that many of the National Academy of Sciences committee’s concerns are already being addressed. However the fundamental concerns are inherent in today’s economic times and its proposed location on the edge of a university town in the middle of cattle country. Budget deficits in Washington are out of Homeland Security’s control, and will require such cuts as the Academy fears. KSU will continue having football games across from the lab and draw crowds to University events.  And they will say that there is already a FMD vaccine – they won’t say for only three of the 77 different subtypes.

Don’t take our word for it. Look at the reports. We have nothing to gain personally from opposing this.  At least for the short term, our homes and land will lose value if the lab is built elsewhere. We know that in portions of our community, we will be ostracized for working to end a billion dollar gold rush. However, after a leak we won’t be able to give our property away.

NoNBAF in Kansas

Real BioSecurity for the Heartland

For more information go to:

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NBAF Status Report

Posted by tmanney on February 1, 2011

In 2018 Manhattan will become a different kind of place if the U. S. Dept. of Homeland Security (DHS) and KSU have their way.  It will become the world-famous home of a major biodefense germ laboratory, the NBAF.   It is being built next to the KSU Biosafety Research Institute (BRI) and veterinary medicine, across from the football stadium, and less than a mile of the livestock area of campus.

NBAF will replace the Plum Island Animal Disease Center, on an island just off of Long Island, New York. This is the only place in the U. S. where Foot-and-Mouth Disease can be studied. The 9/11 attacks and the anthrax letters triggered a seemingly hysterical escalation of the domestic biodefense effort.  The expected $450 million lab propelled a contentious and highly politicized nation-wide competition to be the site for NBAF. The new facility would not only bring the risk for studying Foot and Mouth Disease onto the mainland, but would study agents that can infect both animals and humans and for which there is no cure or vaccine. These require the highest level of biosafety containment.

For the proponents it is all about economic development and fighting biological terrorism. The imposing list of proponents includes the U.S. DHS, K-State, and the Kansas Bioscience Authority, the entire Kansas congressional delegation, the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce, The Manhattan Mercury, the Kansas Farm Bureau, the Kansas Livestock Association, and the Manhattan City Commission.

For most of the opponents, it is about public safety. The principal critics are the Governmental Accountability Office (GAO), the National Academy of Sciences committee, a variety of national livestock organizations, Kansas Cattlemen’s Association and a loosely knit group of Manhattan concerned citizens and ranchers calling themselves No NBAF in Kansas

Homeland Security selected Manhattan as the site over the warning of the GAO, who reported to congress that DHS lacks evidence to conclude that Foot-and-Mouth Disease Research can be done safely on the U.S. mainland. This alarmed members of the House and Senate Appropriations Committee who called for DHS to complete a Site-Specific Risk Assessment (SSRA) to address GAO’s concerns, with the condition that DHS’ methodology would be reviewed by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS/NRC). However NAS was specifically told neither do an independent safety evaluation nor judge Manhattan’s selection.

Their November report concluded that there was a 70% chance that Foot-and-Mouth Disease would be accidentally released from the site during the facility’s lifespan. Millions of livestock would be slaughtered, as is happening now in Korea and U.S. beef exports would be embargoed worldwide. It would cost the nation between $9 and $50 billion.

The proponents tried to discredit the reports by characterizing this threat as “extremely low.” Sen. Brownback attached a $40 million earmark to the spending bill that would begin work on the Manhattan site. The earmark was cut in the final days of the 2010 session.

The National Academy acknowledged that the Plum Island facility is old and needs repair, but also that “further risk analysis” was needed to validate the site in Manhattan. The NAS committee concludes the only thing they were mandated to say, “Ultimately, policy makers will need to decide whether the risks of constructing the lab in Manhattan, Kansas, are acceptable.”

The No NBAF in Kansas is trying to rally an appeal to members of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees to not approve the funds, and to repeal language inserted by the Senate requiring DHS to sell Plum Island. This creates an artificial timeline and makes this a “done deal.”

Recommended Reading:

Kenneth King, Germs Gone Wild, 2010 (Pegasus Books, LLC)

Michael Christopher Carroll, Lab 257, 2004 (Harper Books)

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Contacting Influential Legislators

Posted by tmanney on February 1, 2011

The following link goes to a list of the Representatives and Senators who will most likely decide whether or not the construction funds for NBAF are appropriated. It is difficult to communicate with any except those in your own district, especially by email, so it is important to look for ones who are.  Postal mail is very slow because it is screened for anthrax and other suspicious materials. It is worth while to try FAX numbers.

Congressional Contacts – NBAF

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