Dunn is done for
December 1, 2006
I attended a packed meeting last night at the Town of Dunn Town Hall, about 20 minutes from the University of Wisconsin, Madison.
The UW, unbeknownst to the citizens of Dunn, invited the USDA and Homeland Security to build a BSL-4 lab on the university's 40 acres in Dunn. UW made the first cut and is now among 14(?) semi-finalist universities vying for this honor. http://www.sunshine-project.org/biodefense/NBAF/NBAFtransparency1.pdf
BSL-4 labs are very rare. There is one in San Antonio at the Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research; one in Galveston at the University of Texas, Galveston; the CDC in Atlanta is another, and there is one at Fort Dietrich in Maryland. (Apparently, the primary U.S. biological warfare lab.) There are probably a very few top secret others.
BSL-4 labs engage in research using the most deadly and contagious diseases known. These are zoonotic diseases (non-host specific, that move from species to species) that are easily aerosoled and tend to start as respiratory infections. They have longish latency periods which means that infected people move around spreading the disease before they sicken and die. These are the labs where people wear space suits.
When asked why the UW had invited the government to come here and begin shipping in these deadly diseases prior to discussing the matter with the citizens of Dunn, UW Provost Patrick Farrell said that the UW submits so many letters of interest to the feds that it just didn't seem important.
In the 90 page application for the honor of hosting this lab, the UW claimed at least three times (according to an attorney present at the meeting who came well prepared) that local officials supported the idea of hosting this lab in their community. When asked to name those officials, the UW representatives couldn't name one and said that they had had to hurry to get their application in on time.
When asked about worse case scenarios, one of the UW experts said that if a lab technician dropped a beaker with some dangerous culture inside, that they were trained to hold their breath (!).
No questions were answered substantively.
The issue of primates came up a couple of times. When asked whether primates would be in the facility, the spokesdopes said that they didn't know, probably not, and that therefore no one should worry about the "AR terrorists" because they care only about monkeys. Guess he forgot the local mink releases, and the outcry over the UW's pig tasering, the starved cows, and the medically neglected dog.
When asked why the UW's Institutional Biosafety Committee minutes are so hard to obtain, it was claimed that university oversight commitees across the nation had started meeting in secret because activists had been attending IACUC meetings, getting copies of the minutes, and using them to create tension between the labs and their communities. (By making them public.)
The people of Dunn probably think they have a chance. Hah. If the feds decide to build in Dunn, they will. And the UW will claim after the fact and until the public forgets again, that public meetings were held and that they listened to the public's concerns.