Plum Island to Manhattan – Pathogens On The Move
The most dangerous pathogens imaginable are being moved from an isolated island off the coast of Long Island, New York into the breadbasket of the United States, Manhattan, Kansas. For decades the mysteries surrounding the US Government (no names of course) has conducted and denied work on biological weapons. Biological Weapons of any class are capable of eliminating, or mutating, living matter. With the sad and fragile state of this planet, earth already strains to support today’s human population while they consume more and more . Introducing more virulent forms of deadly biology appears insane. Granted, pursuing antidotes requires working with extraordinary and dangerous life forms. One would expect to keep this kind of work in the most isolated location possible.
Kansas? What portion of earth’s population relies on Kansas livestock and field crops, vegetables, oats, wheat, canola, soy, to mention a few. Sure, Kansas Universities are well suited to engage in this dangerous research … but BioSafety Level 4?
A Biosafety Level is the level of the biocontainment precautions required to isolate dangerous biological agents in an enclosed facility. The levels of containment range from the lowest biosafety level 1 to the highest at level 4. In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have specified these levels. In the European Union, the same biosafety levels are defined in a directive. However, in USAMRIID (United States Army Research Institute of Infectious Diseases) classify agents the range from the lowest biosafety level 0 to the highest level 4 without level 1.
Plum Island Animal Disease Center (PIADC) is located on Plum Island, off the northeast coast of Long Island in New York state. During the Spanish-American War, the island was purchased by the government for the construction of Fort Terry, which was later deactivated after World War II and then reactivated in 1952 for the Army Chemical Corps. The center comprises 70 buildings (many of them dilapidated) on 840 acres.
ABOUT 50 years ago, the United States Department of Agriculture took control of Plum Island, already a federal property, to study dangerous animal diseases that might harm the national food supply. A sense of mystery and danger in nearby communities emerged as employees took a special ferry to the 840-acre island and took showers to protect themselves before and after work.
Homeland Security took over Plum Island in 2003 and two years later announced that it would build a new biological and agricultural defense center called the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility, or N.B.A.F.
At the time of that announcement, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, a Democrat who was confirmed last week as secretary of state under President Obama, and Representative Timothy H. Bishop, Democrat of Southampton, said the laboratory should remain open at the current security level — Level 3. Mr. Bishop still has hope that the closing may be put off.
The government said it needed a Level 4 laboratory, the highest security designation, enabling it to handle diseases fatal to animals and humans for which there is no known cure.
The original anti-animal BW mission was “to establish and pursue a program of research and development of certain anti-animal (BW) agents”. By August 1954 animals occupied holding areas at Plum Island and research was ongoing within Building 257. The USDA facility, known as the Plum Island Animal Disease Center, continued work on biological warfare research until the U.S. program was ended by Richard Nixon in 1969. The bio-weapons research at Building 257 and Fort Terry was shrouded in aura of mystery and secrecy. The existence of biological warfare experiments on Plum Island was denied for several decades by the U.S. government. In 1993 Newsday unearthed documents proving otherwise.
The most frightful ingredient in this equation, of molecules, bacteria, virus and whatever bio-cocktail may be designed, is the human factor. There are toxic remnants of USSR Cold War laboratories in sad conditions with little or no protection or containment provided.
As an unofficial part of the Soviet Union’s vast bioweapons program, the institute routinely kept dozens of different strains of anthrax, plague and tularemia stored in unlocked refrigerators.
… at the Alma-Ata institute, vials of anthrax are kept in coffee cans, which themselves are stored in a 40-year-old refrigerator secured with a simple padlock.
Scientists worry that the $20 billion in biodefense research spending has actually made us less safe by increasing the number of researchers and labs authorized to handle deadly substances across America.
Part 2: Snafus Mar Vaccine Program
Seven years after the 2001 anthrax attack, the country finds itself with a still woefully inadequate and uncertain supply of a vaccine
Part 3: Experts Divided Over Risk of Bio-Terrorist Attack
The Obama administration will need to decide which elements of the nation’s biodefense program are worth keeping