Communities Against a Radioactive Environment
For immediate release: April 16, 2007
Public To Department Of Homeland Security:
No "Community Acceptance" For Bio-War Research
for more information, contact:
Marylia Kelley or Loulena Miles, Tri-Valley CAREs, (925) 443-7148
Bob Sarvey, board member, Tracy business owner, (209) 835-7162
Today, the Department of Homeland Security is sending its "site selection" team to Livermore Lab's Site 300, a high explosives and bomb testing range that sits on Corral Hollow Road near Tracy. The team is evaluating locations at which to construct and operate a massive bio-warfare agent research facility.
The proposed bio-facility is slated to cover 500,000 square feet, the size of 5 Wal-Marts. It will house the most lethal pathogens on Earth, with both BSL-3 and BSL-4 capacity. Biosafety Level-3s experiment on infectious or exotic pathogens that are potentially lethal, such as live anthrax, plague and Q fever. Biosafety Level-4s are reserved for extremely exotic biological agents for which there is no known cure, such as Central European tick-borne encephalitis. The biological research will spread across a minimum of 30 acres to accommodate large animals, according to the agency's request for proposals in the federal register.
The Department of Homeland Security is studying 17 locations, and will choose 2 to 5 "finalists" in June 2007, according to agency officials. One of the selection criteria, says DHS, will be "community acceptance." The agency defines the potentially-affected community as "living within a 60-mile" radius, which includes the City of Tracy, the metropolitan Bay Area and the upper Central Valley.
7,000 PEOPLE AND THE TRACY CITY COUNCIL HAVE ALREADY SAID "NO" TO THE BIO-LAB AT SITE 300 -- THERE IS NO COMMUNITY ACCEPTANCE HERE
Local outcry opposing the facility is significant -- and growing. Tri-Valley CAREs has already collected 2,000 petitions against the bio-lab, many of them distributed neighbor to neighbor and through Bob Sarvey's shoe store in Tracy. There have been letters to the editor opposing it. Working Assets asked its local customers if they would be willing to pay a small fee to send a letter-gram telling Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff to stop the bio-lab -- and more than 3,000 responded "yes." Hundreds made phone calls. A California group sponsored an internet forum that enabled nearly 2,000 people to send their email messages opposing the facility to DHS. Tracy residents took health and safety concerns to City Council meetings. In January 2007, the Tracy City Council voted to oppose the bio-lab at Site 300.
"What part of 'no' does the Department of Homeland Security not understand," asked Tri-Valley CAREs' executive director, Marylia Kelley. "Opposition to this dangerous bio-lab is growing daily," Kelley continued. "Site 300 is not an appropriate location for conducting research on deadly pathogens."
More than seven million people live within 60 miles of Site 300, and the City of Tracy is moving out toward the Livermore Lab Site 300 fence line. A major housing development, Tracy Hills, is imminent. "Bugs, bombs and millions of nearby people make for a potentially disastrous brew," Kelley concluded.
SITE 300 -- WRONG PLACE FOR RESEARCH ON DEADLY PATHOGENS
Tri-Valley CAREs and its allies believe that Site 300 is the wrong place to experiment with these deadly pathogens. Site 300 is on the cusp of the Central Valley to its east and the metropolitan Bay Area to its west. An accident there could devastate the economy in California's agricultural and ranching heartland. And, "zoonotic" diseases, which are specified in the bio-facility's mission, are those that can be transmitted by and kill both animals and people.
Site 300 is vulnerable to both earthquake and fire. Active faults crisscross Site 300, such as the Elk Ravine fault. And, wildfires ravage it regularly. Site 300 is a federal Superfund cleanup site, and was placed on the Environmental Protection Agency's list of worst contaminated locations in 1990. Full cleanup of toxic and radioactive pollutants already in the soil and groundwater could take hundreds of years.
Site 300 is used today by Livermore Lab for bomb testing, including outdoors on "firing tables." The detonations routinely use high explosives, depleted uranium and other toxic and radioactive materials. Livermore Lab has just re-applied for a permit to increase these blasts 8-fold annually.
Moreover, building this research lab at Site 300 means collocating bio-warfare agent research with nuclear weapons, which will send the wrong signal to the rest of the world. "Building this facility at Site 300 could weaken the Biological Weapons Convention," warned Loulena Miles, the staff attorney at Tri-Valley CAREs. "Today, there exists a bright line, with no country locating its advanced biological warfare research in classified nuclear weapons labs. If the U.S. crosses that line, it will make it exceedingly difficult if not impossible to tell other nations not to do the same."
Miles continued, "Further, collocating 'bugs and bombs' will raise suspicions worldwide about the intent of the U.S. biodefense program. This, too, could have a corrosive effect on universal acceptance of the treaty." The Biological Weapons Convention is the international treaty to prevent the spread of bioweapons. The U.S. is a signatory.
TRI-VALLEY CAREs RECOMMENDS
First, the government should undertake a comprehensive analysis of the BSL-3 and BSL-4 space that already exists or is under construction. Then, and only then, can it be ascertained whether any additional capability is needed. The present situation, wherein each agency is willy-nilly building these dangerous labs with little or no knowledge of what other agencies are doing, poses unnecessary risks for communities.
Second, the government should forswear collocating 'bugs and bombs' as this creates stress on, and weakening of, the Biological Weapons Convention.