Biolab security issues gain attention at coffee
Saturday morning, about 20 area residents braved the snow to hear legislators Rep. Kenny Wilk, R-Lansing, and Sen. Roger Pine, R-Lawrence, speak at a legislative forum at Tonganoxie's VFW post home.
Wilk and Pine talked about numerous issues, one of which was the state's bipartisan interest in luring a $450 million national defense laboratory -- the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility -- to Kansas.
According to the Web site, nbafinkansas.org, NBAF will be a state-of-the-art federal laboratory to research and develop diagnostic capabilities for foreign animal and zoonotic diseases for the Department of Homeland Security.
Zoonotic diseases are diseases that can be transmitted from animals to humans.
"Animal health issues fit right in with a very powerful niche that we have in Kansas," Wilk said. "We have over 127 animal health companies headquartered in this area.
He noted that 18 sites in 12 states are under consideration for the site, which will serve as a replacement for the Plum Island Animal Disease Center, located off Long Island, N.Y.
Two sites in Kansas are being considered for the 500,000-square-foot facility -- Manhattan and Leavenworth.
"This is not a red herring," Wilk said, noting the Plum Island facility had been in operation for 50 years.
Wilk said the facility was in need of repairs, and added, "The federal government has decided they are not going to rehab that facility."
Tonganoxie resident Mark Knipp asked Wilk about potential hazards in putting NBAF in Leavenworth County.
Knipp referred to NBAF as a "bioweapons" facility and said he was concerned about the ability to keep it secure.
"So, it is going to be a facility to house some of the most deadly diseases the world has known," Knipp said.
Pine said he had toured K-State's Biosecurity Research Institute and was impressed with the security measures in place. Those measures would be increased at the NBAF.
"I understand your concerns and don't blame you," Pine said. "If I hadn't gone through the level 3 facility that I've gone through at K-State, I'd have more concerns."
Wilk said public meetings would be held and he invited Knipp to attend.