Study to be conducted on safety of proposed KSU agro-defense facility

Questions have been raised about the safety of Kansas State's National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility with top safety experts telling citizens there is nothing to worry about.

The National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility, located in Manhattan, Kan., is meant to replace the aging Plum Island, N.Y., lab, and will deal specifically with only diseases that relate to agriculture. Foot-and-mouth disease will be the primary target of the facility. Currently, there are no vaccines to handle the seven variations and numerous sub-strains of the disease.

Citizens of Manhattan, Kan., have raised concerns that the disease could accidentally leak out or be the target of a bioterrorist attack, with foot-and-mouth released to cattle in the surrounding area and beyond.

A foot-and-mouth outbreak is estimated to potentially have a $200 billion impact on the United States' economy. The last outbreak occurred in the United Sates in 1929.

To alleviate fears, the Department of Homeland Security was required by Congress to conduct a risk assessment before the project is given final approval.

To that end, an independent group has been contracted by DHS to provide an assessment and already begun working. The assessment is expected to last until late summer, approximately when work is set to begin on the $450 million, 520,000-square-foot facility. The construction isn't expected to be finished until 2015.