Risk study of Fort Detrick called for by former mayor

The former mayor of Frederick, Maryland, recently called for a comprehensive risk study of the nearby Fort Detrick.

Paul Gordon, who ran the city of Frederick from 1990 to 1994, said residents should be pleased with the additional safety measures included in the renovation of the biosafety level four laboratory at the base, but questions the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases’ overall dedication to community safety, according to Gazette.net

Gordon noted that it took 10 years for Fort. Detrick to remediate known groundwater problems and that anthrax and vials containing other kinds of dangerous materials were simply buried in a nearby landfill.

According to Gordon, 9,220 vials of unrecorded biological agents were found at USAMRIID facilities at the base during a long overdue inventory. USAMRIID officials promised that there would be annual audits, but the relatively newly formed Containment Laboratory Advisory Committee was given no authority to conduct oversight at the labs.

A Rutgers University biosecurity professor called the situation deeply worrisome and unacceptable, according to Gazzette.net.

The former mayor is concerned about plans for 27 new structures at the facility. The National Research Council indicated that a USAMRIID environmental study of the area was deficient in several areas, including risk management, Gazzette.net reports. According to the review, there was not sufficient documentation of an independent assessment of the risks posed to the community from biological agents.

The council report, Gordon wrote, declared that although Congress mandated constructing the new National Interagency Biodefense Campus at Fort Detrick, it would have been appropriate to consider alternatives in less populated areas.

“No one in the Army or Congress can justify this lack of investigation, which could pose a dangerous threat to the entire Frederick area and beyond,” Gordon wrote, according to Gazette.net. “It seems reasonable to assume that terrorists would concentrate on areas where they could create the most havoc.

“USAMRIID’s remodeling of a single laboratory does not address the potential risks created by concentrating pathogenic use in any populated area. With the growing number of biosafety labs at Fort Detrick, there needs to be a comprehensive study of the risks to residents.”