posted on Jul, 5 2004 @ 09:08 AM
I apologize that this is not a link and is long but it is an article in our local paper and you would have to have a subscription to the Paper to read
the article online. But I thought there might be some interest in what it has to say .....
The Southampton Press
By Gavin Menu
Federal officials assured East End residents at a presentation on Sunday that fears about security at the Plum Island Animal Disease Center have been
addressed by a host of improvements to the research facility.
Beth Lautner, director of the center, U.S. Representative Tim Bishop, and Group for the South Fork President Robert S. DeLuca outlined some of the
improvements at a discussion sponsored by the Coalition of Neighborhoods for the Preservation of Sag Harbor, or CONPOSH. Dr. Lautner said the
gathering at the Old Whalers's Church in Sag Harbor would be the first in a long list of public outreach sessions to address the mystery surrounding
the center, which will celebrate its 50th anniversary this month.
The Plum Island Animal Disease Center was established by the Department of Agriculture in 1954 following outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease in both
Mexico and Canada. The 840-acre island is located just 1.5 miles northeast of Orient on the North Fork and only about 10 miles from the location of
Sunday's meeting, raising fears that any discharge of dangerous substances might affect residents such a short distance downwind.
At Sunday's meeting, a roomful of residents was assured by Dr. Lautner that the security concerns outlined in a September 2003 U.S. General
Accounting Office Report have been addressed on the island, which has been controlled by the Department of Homeland Security for approximately one
She said the department was charged with speeding the development of vaccines, specifically with regard to foot-and-mouth disease, and with upgrading
the island's overall security. According to Dr. Lautner, $10 million in funding was added to Plum Island's operational costs, and since August of
last year, significant changes have been made.
The improvements outlined by Dr. Lautner, most of which were suggested in the GAO report, included a new intrusion alarm system, further compartmental
restrictions, enhanced security around the vaccine banks, and more detailed employee background checks. Additional security personnel and equipment
were added, the director said, but specifics could not be released to the public.
Dr. Lautner explained that a new identification system, which will require a PIN number to access the labs rather than the existing lock-and-key
system, is still in the works. We will know exactly who is coming and going, she said.
Dr. Lautner reported that as of last week, a team of 24 volunteer firefighters had completed intensive training and are now prepared to handle
emergencies on the island. Two new fire trucks are available around the clock, and a full-time federal fire chief has been assigned to oversee the
I think there is a firm commitment from the Department of Homeland Security to excellence in the operation, Dr. Lautner said. We intend to be
responsible members of the community.
Mr. Bishop said he continues to focus his efforts on reinstating 76 Plum Island workers who have been on strike since August 2002. They've been out
of work to the detriment of the operation of Plum Island, the congressman said. My number-one priority is to advocate as strenuously as I possibly can
for the return of the workers who want their jobs back.
The congressman said that during the electrical blackout last August, replacement workers did not know how to properly activate the island's
generation system, causing a temporary breach in the bio-containment labs.
Mr. Bishop said the 76 workers were caught in a much larger ideological struggle as to whether the U.S. government would allow its workers to organize
and protect their own workplace rights. He was optimistic, however, that negotiations with the former employees were moving along productively, and
that a contract would be presented to the Department of Homeland Security soon.
Plum Island has long been an area of concern for local residents, and, for the most part, it has been difficult for anybody, including press
organizations, to obtain clear explanations to troubling environmental and safety concerns.
A book released in February of this year, Lab 257: The Disturbing Story of the Government's Secret Plum Island, detailed the history of the animal
laboratory. The book's author, Michael Christopher Carroll, addressed a 2002 raid by the CIA on a terrorist front organization in Afghanistan, where
a dossier was found detailing the Plum Island Center.
Mr. Carroll also revealed how a Nazi scientist, Dr. Eric Traub, developed Plum Island in the mold of a germ warfare lab. Dr. Traub had been involved
in projects that weaponized animal diseases like foot-and-mouth. At the time the book was released, many of Mr. Carroll's claims were discounted by
the federal government.
Dr. Lautner pointed out that of the 160 countries belonging to the World Animal Health Organization, 60 have recorded cases of foot-and-mouth,
including Afghanistan and Iraq. It would be easier to catch it from a goat in Afghanistan than to come onto Plum Island and get it, she said.
She explained that vaccines are constantly being developed on Plum Island that would prevent the outbreak of several animal diseases in this country,
including foot-and-mouth, monkey pox, African swine fever, and Venezuelan equine encephalitis.
Foot-and-mouth would kill the economy, Dr. Lautner said, adding that the tourism industry in the United Kingdom suffered a $4.2 billion hit when the
disease first broke out.
Mr. DeLuca, who has served as president of the Group for the South Fork since 1992, compared some of Plum Island's troubles to the Brookhaven
National Laboratory, which over the years has contaminated waterways on Long Island. Both projects, Mr. DeLuca said, started with strong federal
investment, but that financial support diminished as time moved on.
Slowly over time, as the federal government didn't want to pay for some of the services, there was a slow reduction in ongoing maintenance and
security -just the basic stuff, Mr. DeLuca said. If you're going to have a facility like this in heavily populated areas, you have to invest in its
Mr. DeLuca was encouraged by Dr. Lautner's efforts to reach out to the community, and asked that the effort be continued. He said also that constant
pressure from concerned citizens on the Department of Homeland Security would only help to further stabilize security on the island.
Continued skepticism is always good, Mr. DeLuca told the crowd. Eventually you will make the determination whether or not you're getting a straight
Issue Date: Southampton Press 07/01/04
Copyright, The Southampton Press
The Southampton Press includes two zoned editions.