Plum Island facility fails to meet biocontainment standards

A new report by the National Research Council indicates that the Plum Island Animal Disease Center is in need of major improvements.

The report notes the "imperative" need for a large animal biocontainment laboratory in the United States in order to protect animal and public health, East Hampton Patch reports.

A new National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility or scaled back version could help meet the need, but until such a facility is opened, Plum Island "should remain in operation to address ongoing needs," the report states.

Plum Island, though, is in need of updates to its aging infrastructure estimating a total cost of $90 million. The estimate is based on initial estimates for short-term improvements, including improvements to the liquid-waste decontamination facility, Plum Island and Orient Point harbors, information technology upgrades, utility and building upgrades, security hardening, detection and access control, and marine vessel replacement and lighthouse restoration, according to East Hampton Patch.

Long-term improvements are estimated at $210 million, should the center be expected to operate for another 25 years.

One drawback of ignoring the needed updates is that the center does not have large animal Biosafety Level 4 Capacity, which contains agents identified as potentially life-threatening, meaning that work would have to go to foreign laboratories.

The proposed NBAF, which would be in Manhattan, Kansas, would be the world's fourth Biosafety Level 4 level laboratory capable of large animal research, according to the report. The site would replace the Plum Island facility, but would cost an estimated $1.14 billion.

The report also says that Plum Island's aging infrastructure does "not meet current standards for high biocontainment," according to East Hampton Patch.

DHS has previously stated that cost of maintaining and operating the Plum Island facility would be costly and that a Biosafety Level 4 facility could not be constructed on Plum Island.

Due to the crucial need for foot-and-mouth disease research in the United States, improvements must be made, no matter what option is selected, the report states, East Hampton Patch reports.