Communities Against a Radioactive Environment
For immediate release: October 5, 2007
Livermore Lab Responsible for Anthrax Release, $450,000 Fine
Tri-Valley CAREs Charges Livermore Lab with Cover-up, Withholding Information from Public
for more information, contact:
Marylia Kelley, Executive Director, Tri-Valley CAREs, 925-443-7148
Robert Schwartz, Staff Attorney, Tri-Valley CAREs, 925-443-7148
LIVERMORE -- New information reveals that biological researchers at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory mishandled anthrax, breached security and access requirements and violated shipping laws leading to a release of anthrax during a transfer to two other laboratories, one in Virginia and one in Florida.
The incident has resulted in a $450,000 fine, the largest levied in recent history by the federal Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).
The fine against the University of California, as the Livermore Lab's manager, was made public yesterday, October 4, 2007, while the House Energy and Commerce Committee held the first ever congressional hearing on the safety and security of the Nation's biodefense research laboratories.
Marylia Kelley, the Executive Director of Tri-Valley CAREs who lives across the street from Livermore Lab, responded: "I am angry that the University of California Regents and Livermore Lab officials deliberately withheld important information from the public."
The anthrax accident took place in September 2005. Kelley explained, "The Livermore Lab's account of this very incident in a court-ordered document fails to disclose that anthrax was involved or released. The Lab disclosed only that an unnamed biological agent was shipped with improper 'inner packaging'."
She continued: "We now know that was a deception. The Lab disclosed only one aspect of a major accident involving multiple violations of law and regulation and resulting in the release of a dangerous pathogen."
According to the DHHS Office of Inspector General/ Enforcement Actions, "anthrax was released from the shipped vials."
"Livermore Lab officials lied to us, the court and the public about this accident," Kelley charged. "The research conducted at Livermore Lab is neither safe nor secure. We will continue our efforts to ensure that no new biowarfare agent research facilities open at Livermore Lab -- and that the existing research comes under greater scrutiny."
Robert Schwartz, Staff Attorney at Tri-Valley CAREs, added, "I am particularly troubled that Livermore Lab allowed an unauthorized individual to package a biowarfare agent. This not only violates government regulations but raises the specter that Livermore Lab's handling of dangerous biological agents may increase the risk that a terrorist could access anthrax at the Lab and spread it around the community. This danger is at the heart of Tri-Valley CAREs' litigation to prevent the operation of a new, Bio-safety Level-3 (BSL-3) facility at Livermore Lab. A BSL-3 would allow the Lab to conduct aerosol experiments with anthrax, plague, Q fever and scores of other biowarfare agents."
Schwartz continued, "The Lab is slated to release a final version of the analysis we won in the federal courts any day now. If that analysis dodges this and other accidents at Livermore Lab and proposes to bring even more of these potentially fatal pathogens to Livermore, we will haul them back to court. We simply cannot allow them to endanger our lives like this."
The DHHS Office of Inspector General web site at http://www.oig.hhs.gov/fraud/enforcement/administrative/cmp/cmpitems.html#6 states: The Regents of the University of California, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), California, agreed to resolve its liability for an alleged violation of the Select Agent Program. The OIG alleged that LLNL transferred vials of anthrax to two laboratories located in Florida and Virginia. During the transfers, anthrax was released from the shipped vials. An investigation of the packaging for the shipments revealed several violations of regulations governing the shipment of anthrax. The OIG specifically alleged that LLNL violated the transfer requirements of the select agent regulations by failing to comply with the applicable shipping and packaging laws when transferring a select agent. In addition, the OIG also alleged that LLNL failed to comply with security and access requirements by allowing an individual not authorized to have access to select agents to package the shipments of anthrax, and that LLNL's Responsible Official failed to ensure compliance with the shipping and packaging requirements of the select agent regulations. Under the terms of the settlement, LLNL agreed to pay the OIG $450,000 to resolve these allegations. (end of quote)