Leaders oppose proposed bio-defense lab

February 18, 2008 9:00:00 PM PST
Raleigh City Council leaders on Tuesday publicly opposed a proposed national bio-defense lab that might be built in Butner.

The lab would be "a state-of-the-art federal biological and agricultural research facility designed to protect the country's food supply and public health from new and emerging diseases and bioterrorism", according to an informational website about the lab.

The Raleigh City Council joined a growing chorus of people opposing the lab. "Given the fact they're putting it in the middle of 5, what I'm told are 5 watersheds, there are huge safety concerns," said Council Member Rodger Koopman.

Council members tell Eyewitness News they've received hundreds of emails citing concerns about the lab. Many of them deal with the fact that there are several water sources, including Falls Lake, downstream of the proposed site.

"Humans will always make mistakes, and buildings will always fail over time, regardless of their sophistication," said lab opponent Kathryn Spann.

The Council cited several questions it would like answered before it can support the lab.

Among them:

  • Assurances the lab is safe.
  • Assurances that sediment from the lab would not get into Falls Lake.
  • Assurances the lab would have some congressional and civilian oversight, rather than solely being monitored by the Department of Homeland Security.

A comprehensive environmental impact study which may well answer many of the City Council's concerns is not due out until May.

The Butner site is one of five finalists being considered by the federal government for the lab.

Supporters of the lab say they understand the ongoing concerns.

"We fully support the need of the public and elected officials to have all of the information," says supporter Warwick Arden. "I think this is very expected, very reasonable."

Homeland Security Department officials are expected to attend a public hearing and information session which will be held in Granville County Thursday night.


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