Two years overdue Pa. bioterrorism lab still has no set opening date

A sophisticated Health Department bioterrorism lab currently two years overdue for opening in Allegheny County shows no signs of opening by year's end.

The 500-square-foot biosafety level-3 lab, which was slated to begin operation in August as part of the county's $6.4 million Lawrenceville biosecurity lab, is estimated to be at least $2 million over budget. After missing the August date, the opening was moved to late September to coincide with the Group of 20 international economic summit, a date it also missed.

Ventilation issues with the BSL-3 lab are said to be the root of the problem. A Health Department spokesman did not know when the necessary repairs would be made.

The lab failed an independent consultant's inspection in August, which it is required to pass prior to being commissioned and opened under Centers for Disease Control and Prevention rules.

It is reported that some alarms were not functional during a simulated power outage and that some doors did not close properly. Seals in the lab were also found to allow pathogen contaminated air to escape.

The BSL-3 lab is intended to allow the Health Department the ability to examine deadly pathogens, including anthrax and smallpox. Currently, specimens must be sent by the county to a state Department of Health lab in Chester County for analysis with results taking days to be returned.