The Expansion of Biowarfare Research
Laboratories at USAMRIID, Fort Detrick:
A Call to attend a Public Forum before the Frederick Board of
County Commissioners (BOCC)
Monday, November 19 at 7 pm, 1st Floor Meeting Room,
Winchester Hall 12 East Church Street Frederick
This is the time, the only public opportunity to persuade our Commissioners
that we want them to obtain a Court Review of the USAMRIID Environmental Impact
Statement. A court review will hold the Federal Government accountable for complying with
NEPA- the National Environmental Policy Act, which is designed to protect communities
from development harmful to health and safety.
The Commissioners are holding this public forum to hear from us about the public health,
safety and environmental concerns associated with the expansion of biological research
laboratories at Fort Detrick. USAMRIID is planned to be the cornerstone of a massive
expansion of such laboratories, involving at least 6 different Federal agencies on what would
be named the National Interagency Biodefense Campus (NIBC). NIBC would occupy 200
acres at Fort Detrick. This would be by far the largest biowarfare research complex in the
What can you do?
1. Come to the forum, whether or not you plan to speak. We need to fill the room! You
will learn a lot about the issue, and your presence is very important.
2. Learn more (resources and contacts below), and consider speaking. This meeting is
about the need for a court review, because health, safety and environmental impacts are NOT
properly addressed in the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). NEPA requires, and the
USAMRIID EIS does not:
• Evaluate alternate, less densely populated locations for these labs.
• Provide a comprehensive evaluation of the cumulative impacts of the entire National
Interagency Biodefense Campus.
• Address the many burdens upon our community’s public health, safety, growth, taxes and
Use your own unique background to talk about your concerns in your own words. Comments
will be limited to five (5) minutes per speaker and ten (10) minutes for recognized organizations.
3. Persuade everyone you know to come to the forum! Pass this on, BUT– talking
to people is much more effective!
4. E-mail the commissioners and tell them what you think. If you can’t come, tell
them you would be there if you could…..Jan Gardner: email@example.com David Gray:
firstname.lastname@example.org Kai Hagen: email@example.com Charles Jenkins: firstname.lastname@example.org Lenny
Thompson: email@example.com. Send letters to the editor: firstname.lastname@example.org
Learn More: Informational meeting, open to all: Viewing of recent PBS
documentary “The Living Weapon”, followed by discussion of the current situation. 7 pm Monday
11/12 in the Notre Dame Room, Parish Center of St. John the Evangelist Church, 118 East 2nd St
Frederick. The parish center is two buildings to the right of the church. Sponsored by St John’s Peace
and Justice Committee.
STATEMENT BY FREDERICK COUNTY COMMISSIONER DAVID GRAY: August 24, 2007
“It has been pointed out to me, by those that have read it thoroughly, that the Environmental Impact
Statement (EIS) for the USAMRIID expansion does not adequately examine the following very
Why has an alternate location for the new BSL 3 and BSL 4 labs not been thoroughly examined? This
would be an ideal time to move these labs. They have been a source of concern in this county for
years. They will house the most dangerous pathogens known to man (ie Ebola, Marburg, etc).
Presently they are planned to be again located in the high population area where Fort Detrick is now
located. Public safety fears would be greatly alleviated if they were moved to a more remote and safe
I understand that the EIS is now subject to a court review if requested. I am willing to call for such a
court review before construction commences. I have also been informed that such a review by the
courts was requested when BSL 4 labs were planned to be installed at Boston University which is in a
similar high population area. In that case, in 2006, both the Massachusetts state court as well as the
U.S. District Court ordered that the labs not be operated until alternate (less populated sites) are
properly considered, and simulation of real-world disease transmission is properly analyzed. (This risk
analysis is expected to address in detail the potential threats to the community arising from the use of
several BSL 4 agents that are planned to be studied in the Boston labs. This risk analysis will examine
the effects of a laboratory-acquired infection of a laboratory worker with Ebola; the transportation of a
vector-borne agent, such as tick-borne encephalitis; an aerosol event involving a hemorrhagic fever;
and the use of rDNA in monkey pox.) Our situation in Frederick County seems very similar.
In October 2001 there was an anthrax attack on postal workers, members of congress and the media,
resulting in 5 deaths. This was the first known biological attack on US citizens. It is widely believed
that the source of that anthrax (the Ames strain) was Ft Detrick.
Last December I and four other County Commissioner were sworn into office and we took an oath to
“Preserve and protect the health, safety and welfare of the citizens of Frederick County”. I am
committed to that oath.”
Much more information is available about this issue. Contact: Beth Willis:
email@example.com Barry Kissin: firstname.lastname@example.org. The BOCC obtaining a Court Review has been
endorsed by: Citizens for Quality of Life, Friends of Frederick County, St. John the Evangelist Peace and Justice
Committee, Sierra Club Catoctin Group, the Fort Detrick Watchdog Group, Women in Black Frederick, the Frederick
Peace Resource Center, FredPac, and many many citizens like you.
Breach of trust
Originally published November 07, 2007
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By Katherine Heerbrandt
A week before Sen. Barbara Mikulski visited Frederick County extolling the economic promise of Fort Detrick's expansion, Keith Rhodes, chief technologist for the Government Accountability Office, told members of Congress that the proliferation of high-level biolabs raises serious questions about public safety.
“The more BSL-4 labs there are, the more opportunity for mistakes and the more opportunities for release,” Rhodes told the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations on Oct. 4.
Since 9/11 the number of labs researching the most virulent pathogens — those with no cure — grew from two to 15. With no central oversight of the growing number of labs, and disincentives inherent in reporting safety breaches, the security and operations of BSL-3 and BSL-4 labs are in question.
The oversight of these labs is “fragmented and relies on self-policing. High-risk labs have health risks for individual lab workers as well as the surrounding community. The risks due to accidental exposure or release can never be completely eliminated, and even labs within sophisticated biological research programs, including those most extensively regulated, have had and will continue to have safety failures,” Rhodes said.
Burning to spend the billions unleashed for biodefense research, the feds rushed to act with little consideration of the consequences. A sadly familiar refrain.
The U.S. Army War College's 2005 “Assessing Biological Weapons and Bioterrorism Threat” concludes money was spent with no analysis of the bioterrorism threat, which it called “systematically and deliberately exaggerated” by this administration.
More probable than a bioterrorist attack is that we infect ourselves by theft, design or mishap. With every new lab opened, every square foot added, the risk increases, according to the GAO.
The Associated Press produced an interactive map that reveals biolab breaches in the U.S. (http://hosted.ap.org/specials/interactives/wdc/biohazards/)
As recently as June, anthrax bacteria was found on a freezer handle, light switch and shoes in a changing room at USAMRIID.
With stories of accidents, breaches of protocol and incompetence from biolabs emerging with disturbing regularity, Detrick's refusal to participate in a public meeting isn't surprising.
Why subject itself to more national attention when biolabs are under assault?
The request came from County Commissioner David Gray, who issued a statement in August saying that federal officials ignored policy in their Environmental Impact Statement by not seeking alternate sites for the labs.
Detrick agreed to meet, then backed out, offering a private meeting with county commissioners. Gray wanted to bring community members and the press. Detrick declined that offer, too.
Detrick has already done its duty, says spokesperson Eileen Mitchell, providing ample opportunity for public comment and complying with federal regulations.
Maybe they weren't counting on anyone actually reading the EIS, but local attorney Barry Kissin and Beth Willis have made a thorough study of it, culminating in a 17-page statement including tough questions for Detrick officials. At best, the EIS is a cursory attempt to comply with federal guidelines. At worst, it ignores documented breaches and blithely concludes that any danger is “negligible.”
The lack of serious effort in such a critical report is yet another example of the arrogance characterizing the federal government's tactics in the name of keeping America safe from terrorists.
Wave the flag and our brains shut down?
Undeterred by Detrick's refusal, Gray will have his forum at 7 p.m. on Nov. 19 at Winchester Hall. But it will take more than the usual 20 to 25 regulars to convince a majority of commissioners that the EIS is severely flawed and deserves a court review.
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Why a Court Review on the USAMRIID Expansion?
What would it do, and why support it?
The people and government of Frederick County need a court review of the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the USAMRIID expansion, because the FEIS does not comply with The National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA). A court review would provide an independent, binding assessment and judgment about the specific ways the FEIS does not meet NEPA requirements in assessing whether Frederick is an appropriate location for these laboratories, and for adequately evaluating the health and safety issues these laboratories would bring to the community.
The purpose and spirit of NEPA requirements assume that a full and thorough environmental assessment is needed to properly make fundamental decisions about site location and risk mitigation. A complete and thorough analysis of alternative sites is required in order to compare those alternative sites, leading to:
¨ information adequate enough for local elected officials to develop a full and informed understanding of impacts, risks and issues
¨ information adequate enough for citizens of the county and other affected parties to do the same
¨ a sound decision on the proper site, based on legally specified health, safety, environmental and economic factors
The current FEIS does not provide the information needed for decision-makers to determine if these programs should be located in Frederick County. It does not provide the information needed for officials and citizens to be adequately informed about the risks and impacts, as intended by NEPA.
A court review would, at a minimum, address the following NEPA-related FEIS defects:
¨ the failure during the FEIS process to squarely address fundamental issues raised repeatedly, verbally and in writing by residents of the community.
¨ the failure to properly identify alternatives sites, including one in a less populated area.
¨ the failure to provide credible and serious evaluations and comparisons of such alternatives.
¨ the failure to analyze the cumulative environmental impacts of the entire National Interagency Biodefense Campus (NIBC). Facilities for NIH, DHS, USDA, CDC, BRAC (Naval and Army Bio-Labs), as well as USAMRIID are planned to be located on NIBC. NEPA clearly requires a “Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement” (PEIS) with respect to the NIBC, which has never been done. Rather, there have been only cursory references to the full program in the USAMRIID EIS.
¨ the failure to adequately analyze the environmental impact of BSL-3 and BSL-4 pathogens escaping from containment.
¨ the failure to evaluate potential environmental impacts of genetic engineering of BSL-3 and BSL- 4 pathogens. The Army’s own regulations specifically refer to genetic engineering as an action that demands evaluation for potential impacts.
¨ the failure to explain in specific detail how the cumulative program would satisfy its water requirements, which would at least double the current water requirements of the Fort.
¨ the failure to analyze potential scenarios related to transport of bio-agents to and from facility and failure to include a threat and vulnerability analysis for a terrorist attack or infiltration.
Tell our County Commissioners:
You want them to obtain a Court Review
of the latest Fort Detrick Biocontainment laboratory expansion Environmental Impact Statement.
Women In Black, Frederick commends Commissioner David Gray for his statement questioning the thoroughness of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the proposed USAMRIID expansion, especially as it pertains to site location, and calling for a court review of the EIS before construction commences.
The function of the planned Biosafety Level 4 labs scheduled for construction as part of the expansion is to house experiments on infectious pathogens for which there is neither vaccine nor cure. Activities planned at some of the new Fort Detrick labs include the acquisition, growth, modification, storage and packaging of those pathogens most adaptable to being used as bioweapons.
One does not need to read voluminous documents to question the wisdom of locating such a facility in a highly populated area of robust growth such as Frederick County, especially in light of the previous record of failed safety procedures and accidents. This is a rational and logical question and one the citizens of Frederick County cannot afford to take lightly. Once built, this facility will be a permanent part of our community environment. Do we really want to risk the health and safety of our families? Many accidents at such labs have recently been in the news. Congress is now holding hearings investigating safety failures in the nation’s 400+ biowarfare laboratory system, for which Frederick will be Headquarters.
We thank Commissioner Gray for his integrity and commitment to his oath of office, “to preserve and protect the health, safety and welfare of the citizens of Frederick County.” We urge all our elected officials to meet this same standard, and we urge all Frederick County residents to hold them to that standard.
Please contact ALL of our County Commissioners now, and tell them you want them to protect our health and safety by calling for a legally binding, impartial Court Review of the Army’s USAMRIID expansion Environmental Impact Statement. Tell them you want them to act on our behalf, and hold the Federal Government accountable for complying with the requirements of the National Environmental Protection Act, which is designed to protect communities from development that is harmful to health and safety.
Call: : (301) 600-9000 Email:
Jan Gardner: firstname.lastname@example.org
David Gray: email@example.com
Kai Hagen: firstname.lastname@example.org
Charles Jenkins: email@example.com
Lenny Thompson: firstname.lastname@example.org