Within the same week, the Stem and Creedmoor town councils each voted 4-1 to oppose the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility, a federal laboratory that would study the world's deadliest animal and human diseases. Nearby Butner, which is 30 miles north of Raleigh and even closer to Durham, is one of five possible sites for NBAF, as it's known.
At a September public hearing sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security, Creedmoor Mayor Darryl Moss spoke out against the lab. He and other opponents are concerned about the virulence of the diseases studied there, the lack of transparency in what research would be conducted, and potential environmental and public health hazards. (See related stories, July 25 and Oct. 10, 2007.)
The N.C. Consortium for the NBAF, a group of biotech companies, universities and agribusiness interests, has worked to bring the lab to Butner, citing its importance in amping up the Triangle's biotech research and economy.
The facility would likely replace the Plum Island Animal Disease Center, which has been plagued by security and safety breaches. Homeland Security and the U.S. Department of Agriculture—which will manage NBAF—were responsible for these failures, according to a Government Accountability Office report published earlier this year, On Dec. 17, the GAO acknowledged Homeland Security had implemented 18 of 24 recommendations to improve conditions at Plum Island. However, the GAO pointed out that the USDA is still allowing students, including those from other countries, to work in the lab without background checks, and Homeland Security has yet to provide the GAO with an updated security plan. That plan has not been reviewed since 1994.