Security agency proceeds with biodefense lab plans

New Fort Detrick facility set for completion in 2008

February 06, 2005|By CAPITAL NEWS SERVICE

WASHINGTON - The Department of Homeland Security has said it will move forward with planning and construction of a new biodefense laboratory at Fort Detrick in Frederick, after the project cleared its environmental review.

The National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures Center, scheduled to be completed in 2008, will have Biosafety Level 4 laboratories, which handle the most dangerous and infectious agents. It will research the causes of those diseases and develop countermeasures to possible bioterrorism.

A final environmental impact statement released Friday said construction and operation of the center would have "negligible to minor adverse impacts" and that the need for biodefense labs outweighed the negative environmental impacts.

Contracts for the project are expected to be awarded next month.

Michael Cady, vice president of the Frederick County Board of Commissioners, said he was delighted that the center is coming to the county. Fort Detrick and the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Disease that it houses "are wonderful neighbors, and I'm happy that they're a part of Frederick County," Cady said.

The new facility will share space with other biodefense laboratories at the National Interagency Biodefense Campus, which will be adjacent to USAMRIID. Other federal agencies taking part in biodefense research at the campus include the Department of Defense, Department of Agriculture and the National Institutes of Health.

Cady said Fort Detrick is the biggest economic entity in the area, contributing to the county's continued growth over the last several years, and he estimated that the new facility will bring 6,000 new jobs to the area.

Cady said there was no significant opposition to the project. The environmental impact statement came after public meetings, community forums and a public comment period.

Both Greenpeace and the Sierra Club say their organizations have no position on infectious disease labs like the ones at Fort Detrick.

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