Mammoth projects come with long lists of questions.
And clearly, in the case of the $650 million National Bio-and Agro-Defense Facility planned for Manhattan, Kan., much more needs to be done to address crucial concerns about safety.
However, this doesn’t mean going back to the drawing board as far as selecting a site. The Kansas location was chosen after exhaustive study. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security should use a critical new report as a tool to make the planned bio lab as close to failsafe as possible.
A report released this week by leading scientists makes the alarming projection that, as they assess the scenarios, there is a 70 percent likelihood over 50 years that the facility would release a pathogen and cause a foot-and-mouth outbreak in the livestock population.
Those odds present an unacceptable risk. But the report, by the National Research Council, notes that the process of identifying and minimizing risks is ongoing.
Indeed, some risk-reducing measures already have been factored into the building’s design but appear to not have been considered in the risk assessment by the research council, a nonprofit organization affiliated with the National Academies of Science.
For example: The report criticized Homeland Security for omitting high-efficiency particulate air filters in its design. But Homeland Security officials say they already plan to use those filters.
No one, including the blue-ribbon scientists who participated in the risk-assessment study, disputes the need for a state-of-the-art laboratory to research natural and terrorist threats to the nation’s food supply. The current lab, on Plum Island in New York, is obsolete.
To read the complete editorial, visit www.kansascity.com.