Plum Island Seeks
Upgrade To Level
4 For Deadliest Viruses
From Patty Doyle <>

Hi Jeff,
Well, looks like Plum is determined. With their horrific history of safety violations this is a bad move. Guess we will have Ebola, Mad Cow Disease, more Japanese Encephalitis, Kunjin, MORE Anthrax, Plague, Smallpox etc. in my backyard. The diseases are bad enough, but, the lack of attention to safety issues is really frightening.
I think I will buy myself a HEPA filter, pressurized hood, and construct a bubble over my house.
The New York Times 11-19-99
RIVERHEAD, NY - Stressing safety and trying to debunk a cloak-and-dagger image they said was undeserved, officials of the Plum Island Animal Disease Center turned to the public Wednesday night to seek support for an expansion that would allow top-security research on viruses that are deadly to animals and humans.
But the reaction was mixed at the public meeting in Greenport, a community on the North Fork of Long Island that is about 10 miles from the offshore center, and where many of the center's 180 employees live. About 200 residents, including lab employees, attended the meeting, the first of several to be held in coming months, including one scheduled for Thursday night in Waterford, Conn., about 10 miles north of Plum Island.
The proposed addition would require Congressional approval and, if approved, might not be in place for several years.
At Wednesday's meeting, in an American Legion hall, a question-and-answer period continued beyond the time laboratory officials had allotted, as some residents and local officials questioned the wisdom of importing lethal and highly contagious animal viruses to an island one mile off the eastern tip of densely populated Long Island and less than 100 miles east of Manhattan.
"If one of these things get out, it will make West Nile virus seem like child's play," said Anne Kristiansen, a resident of Huntington.
State Assemblywoman Patricia L. Acampora of Mattituck, whose district includes the parts of Long Island nearest the 840-acre island, said: "No one is questioning the need for us to be prepared to combat bioterrorism.
The central issue here is whether Plum Island is the appropriate location to handle some of the most dangerous germs that are known to man."
But David E. Kapell, the mayor of Greenport, said a tour of the laboratory that he and other officials took on Monday had reassured him. "I can understand people's fear, but on the other hand, Plum Island has been there 50 years and there have been no incidents," he said.
The United States Department of Agriculture is considering upgrading the Plum
Island center so that it would be the only animal research center in the country designated at biosafety level four, or BL4.
It is currently a BL3 center, where safety and security protocols are similar to those needed at the higher classification.
The change would allow the center to study foreign viruses, including newly emerging and previously unknown strains, that could pose a potentially catastrophic threat to humans and animals if they were introduced into domestic animal stocks.
The Clinton administration has expressed fears about a growing threat of biological terrorism, which could introduce into animals viruses for which there is no known cure; the viruses could then pass on to humans. But members of a panel of high-ranking laboratory and agricultural department officials at the hearing played down the threat of bioterrorism, saying the BL4 lab would be used primarily to enhance the lab's mission of protecting the country's $90 billion livestock industry against foreign viruses.
Those officials said there had been no final decision where to put the BL4 lab, but they left no question that Plum Island was in the lead.
"There really is no short list of alternatives," said Wilda Martinez, the area director for the Agricultural Research Service.
The officials said that the island had advantages over other possible sites because it already had a BL3 center and the scientific staff to study foreign animal diseases.
"You have to take into account where the good scientists are," said Dr. Michael Kiley, the Animal Research Service safety officer at Plum Island.
Dr. Kiley said an upgrading of the laboratory to BL4 would involve extensive security measures.
Viruses collected abroad and shipped to the lab now arrive by jet at Kennedy International Airport in small vials within larger vials, packaged in plastic-lined cardboard containers that, Dr. Kiley said, could withstand an airline crash. Couriers transport the packages by car on the Long Island Expressway and other roads to Orient Point, where they are taken by boat to the island.
Sandy M. Hays, the director of the Agricultural Research Service information office, said a more stringent delivery system would be adopted if the center had a BL4 lab.
The five towns on eastern Long Island have passed resolutions demanding that the Suffolk County Health Services Department be allowed to monitor lab health and safety precautions. One of them, Shelter Island, has called on the federal government to eliminate Plum Island as a potential site for the BL4 lab.
Thomas W. Sparkman, the First Selectman of Lisbon, Conn., said he was unaware of any local groups that opposed the BL4 facilities.
Sparkman was among the group that toured the laboratory on Monday. "Quite frankly, I was impressed," he said. "I was given the sense they were ever mindful of safety."