DHS Issues Final Environmental Impact Statement on Proposed National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate released the final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF) today, recommending Manhattan, Kan., as the preferred site for the state-of the-art, high-security laboratory facility to study foreign animal and zoonotic (transferable from animal to human) diseases that can impact livestock. A formal Record of Decision, which will officially designate a site on which to build the NBAF, will be published on Jan. 12, 2009. Facility design will begin in 2009 with plans for construction to begin in 2010. It is expected that the NBAF would be operational by 2015.
“This facility, once built, will help us to protect our livestock industry, food supply, and public health from the accidental or intentional introduction of a foreign animal or zoonotic disease in the U.S.,” said Homeland Security Under Secretary for Science and Technology Jay Cohen. “The assessment process was extensive, engaging experts within and without the government as well as each potential site community, and this final report carefully weighs the input from all interested parties.”
The NBAF will be designed to replace the current facilities at the Plum Island Animal Disease Center (PIADC) in New York, which is currently the only facility in the U.S. that studies the live virus that causes Foot-and-Mouth disease. The current facility is too small to meet new research needs, has an outdated physical structure and is not appropriate for zoonotic disease research that must be conducted at Biosafety Level 4 (BSL-4). There is currently no laboratory facility in the U.S. with capabilities for BSL-4 research on livestock. PIADC will be closed once the NBAF is operational, and DHS will evaluate options in the coming months for transitioning the PIADC facility and land for future sale or use.
The EIS analyzes the risks associated with potentially building the NBAF at each of the six proposed locations: Athens, Ga.; Manhattan, Kan.; Madison County, Miss.; Granville County, N.C.; San Antonio, Texas and Plum Island, N.Y. The report also analyzes a “No-Action” alternative, assessing the impacts if no NBAF were built at all.
The EIS analyzes health and safety issues, land use, visual effects, infrastructure requirements (potable water, electricity, fuel, sewer, etc.), air and water quality, noise, geology and soils, biological and cultural resources, traffic and transportation issues, waste management, existing environmental issues, and cumulative effects.
The process also included extensive community involvement, beginning in July 2007 when DHS announced its intent to evaluate site alternatives for the proposed NBAF. DHS held eight public meetings and received more than 880 comment documents during this scoping period. A draft EIS – which included issues submitted during the scoping period – was completed in June 2008. A 60-day comment period followed, allowing the public to review the document and provide their comments, and eight additional public hearings were held. The final EIS responds to the hundreds of comments that were received.
Further details on the proposed NBAF and the site-selection process are available at www.dhs.gov/nbaf.
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