Public hears of plans for Rocky Hill lab

State Department of Public Health officials laid out a case to the public for the planned state-of-the-art lab they are planning to build in Rocky Hill, Connecticut.

The public forum, intended to ease fears and answer questions of residents who will soon live near highly contagious bioterror threats, follows a dispute over whether or not union workers will be used to build the lab.

The union dispute temporarily halted work on the $76 million project, which has been in the works since 2001. The union snag arose last week at a State Bond Commission meeting, leading Gov. M. Jodi Rell to say that bipartisan bickering was jeopardizing the project.

Democratic legislators, however, said that the problem with construction arose from what was planned for the facility, which will include some BioSafety Level III testing, currently being performed at the health department's 45-year-old lab in Hartford.

"This ain't Plum Island," Public Health Commissioner Robert Galvin told the audience of 75 to 100 residents, the Hartford Courant reported. "There are no experimental animals in the lab, there never has been or will be."

Approximately five percent of the lab will be used for BioSafety Level III testing of bioterror agents such as TB and anthrax. Most of the remaining space will be a BioSafety Level II area with workers performing approximately two million tests annually for newborn disorders, sexually transmitted diseases, food and water-borne illnesses, environmental screening and other public health issues.

"This is more of an incident lab than a research lab," Rep. Antonio Guerrera, D-Rocky Hill, told the forum, according to the Hartford Courant.