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Despite Environmental Concerns, NRC Confident in Army Lab Expansion

1-research-laboratoryA report issued by the National Research Council has indicated multiple issues in an environmental impact statement from the U.S. Army regarding its expansion of biocontainment laboratories at Fort Detrick in Frederick, Md. The report was requested by Congress. However, the report also indicates that “current safety procedures and regulations at the labs meet or exceed accepted standards, giving the committee a ‘high degree of confidence’ that appropriate protections for workers and the public are in place.”

To cull information from officials of the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID), the committee organized public meetings, including contractors involved in the development of its environmental impact statement. Also included were Fort Detrick emergency personnel, the Frederick County Board of Commissioners and members of the local community.

While acknowledging the uncovered problems, the committee came to the conclusion “that it would not be useful to propose specific revisions to the environmental impact statement given that construction of the new facilities has begun.  Rather, the Army should develop new guidelines for conducting hazard assessments of biocontainment facilities.”  There is, at this time, no specific guidance for such assessments.

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