KW: Plum Island, a small island off the coast of Long Island, is an animal research center that the federal government operates. It is difficult to decide if closing it, cleaning it up, and moving it to Kansas would be good or bad. And, that means: Would it be good or bad for Long Island to have it gone (and have a federal cleanup done the way they do cleanups)? And, good or bad for which aspects of Long Island – our environment, our economy, our saftey? Would it be good or bad for the environment/world overall to change a laboratory like this from one location to another? Lots of questions. Below is an opinion piece with some of the background and impressions from the Connecticut side of the situation.
(excerpt from) The Day – Connecticut
[Plum] Island’s Fate Still In Hands Of Politicians
By David Collins / 1/28/2009
Will the decision to close Plum Island become part of the rollback of Bush era policies by the Obama Administration?
There is certainly a lot of political muscle from New York Democrats to do just that and kill a decision made earlier this month, in the final days of the Bush presidency, to move the animal research work now done on Plum Island to a new facility in Manhattan, Kansas.
The plans by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to build a $450 million laboratory in Kansas would mean the Plum Island facility would close sometime around 2015, when the land would be turned over to the General Services Administration as surplus.
Plum Island would eventually be scrubbed clean, with the laboratory buildings torn down. Other existing buildings – parts of a fort built before the Spanish-American War – and a lighthouse, will probably remain, according to a homeland security spokesperson.
The Plum Island facility, a Level 3 lab capable of working with foot-and-mouth and other animal diseases that can’t be transferred to humans, would be replaced with a Level 4 lab in Kansas, one capable of research on diseases transferable to humans…
One of the leading critics of “sending nearly a half billion dollars” to create a new research lab in Kansas is U.S. Rep. Tim Bishop of Southampton, who has written a plea to the new Homeland Security secretary, Janet Napolitano, urging her to keep Plum Island open.
A Bishop staffer said the congressman believes that a few people in the Bush Administration were responsible for ushering through the plans to move the research center and that a fresh review of the issue may certainly have a different outcome.
Critics of moving the animal research from Plum Island to Kansas don’t need much more ammunition than a General Accounting Office report from last May that questions the safety of moving the lab off the island.
The report notes that in 1978 there was a release of foot-and-mouth disease on Plum Island from the laboratory to animals kept outside the containment area. The disease remained on the island, though, and as a consequence, the United States was able to maintain its disease-free status and still export animal products even after the release was identified.
A similar release on the mainland could have enormous repercussions on the food industry, costing perhaps billions of dollars, the report suggests…
”Given the nonzero risk of a release from any biocontainment facility, most of the experts we spoke with told us that an island location can provide additional protection.”
And what if the Kansas plan does goes forward? Could Plum Island become a park? Sold to developers to create a resort?
Russell, the supervisor in Southold, thinks government research should continue there no matter what, possibly on clean-energy projects, since windmills and tide turbines have already been proposed in the immediate vicinity.
Of course here in New London, less than 12 miles away, mostly downwind, some of those ideas sound more appealing than a biocontainment facility. And if they don’t close Plum Island, would they suggest upgrading it to a Level 4 lab, one that would work on diseases transferable to humans?
If that’s the case then the decision to close Plum Island may have been one of the highlights of the final days of the Bush Administration, one we here might least like to see overturned.
This Is The Opinion Of David Collins
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