Durham speaks out on bio-lab

DURHAM A 1,000 page Homeland Security document answers a lot of questions about what the bio and agro defense lab would do, the foreign animal diseases it would study, and the possible accidents that could happen.

But it's the other 'what if's' it doesn't answer that have people in Durham worried. Like what would happen to the thousands of inmates and mental health patients nearby in an emergency.

"If there was an emergency how would they get out," Durham resident Victoria Peterson said.

"We were asked to come up with an evacuation plan, worked on it for two years and decided there's no such thing as evacuation plan for 7500," Former Mental Health Employee Garland Walker answered.

Some say the more than 300 jobs it would bring is misleading.

"It anticipates 63 jobs will go to local citizens that's of the 326 total jobs at the facility," Rougemont resident Katheryn Spann said.

The facility would test about six potentially deadly animal diseases.

Homeland Security says it will have more than 50 other diseases on site to test against. That list is not being made public.

"That's a serious omission larger target for terrorist or rogue employees, with the anthrax situation we have to take that seriously," Bahama resident John Monroe, who lives a mile and a half from the proposed site.

Last week, Butner residents voiced their concerns at two hearings about Homeland Security's proposed facility. Opponents said the lab could contaminate their drinking water and possibly lead to hazardous infections.

Homeland Security is considering five other sites for the future, high-security lab to study foreign animal diseases -- which some say could decimate U.S. agriculture.

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