- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 3, 2004

FREDERICK, Md. (AP) — A bio-defense laboratory that the National Institutes of Health plans to build at Fort Detrick will pose little threat to lab workers and the community, the agency has concluded.

The NIH’s completed environmental-impact statement marks another step toward construction of the $105 million lab, which is expected to open in 2007.

“We feel confident that the measures incorporated in the design of the facility will minimize the potential harm to lab workers and the community surrounding Fort Detrick,” Ron Wilson, NIH master planner, told the Frederick News-Post on Monday.

The completed statement addresses environmental issues, alternatives to the project and public comments gathered in response to a draft statement released in October.

Frank Kutlak, NIH architect and project officer, said the lab will incorporate design and operational safeguards to protect workers and local residents. He said all safety systems will have two backups. “Based on that and engineering principles, it’s going to be highly safe building,” Mr. Kutlak said.

The lab is part of a planned national bio-defense campus that will expand and augment the research capabilities of the Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (AMRIID) at Fort Detrick, the military’s top bio-defense research center.

The NIH building will house laboratories operated by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. It will be the first new lab built at the campus, where four federal agencies eventually will work together fighting chemical and biological threats.

Congress allocated $105 million last year for the NIH lab.

The campus will bring together staff from the departments of Homeland Security, Defense, Health and Human Services, and Agriculture. The Homeland Security Act of 2002 established the concept, which is aimed at coordinating research and reducing duplication.

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