PO Box 88 ~ Glendale Springs, North Carolina 28629 ~ Phone (336) 982-2691 ~ Fax (336) 982-2954 ~ Email:


SEPTEMBER 27, 2007

Louis Zeller 336-977-0852
Bill McKellar 919-575-4283
Janet Marsh 336-982-2691


Today the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League and the Granville Non-violent Action Team submitted comments to the Department of Homeland Security which up the ante in their opposition to the biological defense laboratory proposed for Butner. GNAT submitted more than 500 community-level comments.

Convinced that the proposed facility will create and test biological weapons, the League aimed their comments at the legal requirements in the National Environmental Policy Act. The League’s concerns were multiple:

1. The DHS must conduct a detailed study of the environmental, health and economic impacts of siting, building and operating a facility which would create and test diseases which can be transferred from animals to humans and for which there are no treatments or vaccines.
2. DHS must determine that the proposed facility is needed. The Department must evaluate the two dozen existing research labs in the Triangle area and show why and how they are inadequate to protect North Carolina’s cows, pigs and chickens.
3. Two recent federal court decisions mandate that DHS evaluate the likelihood and the impacts of terrorist attacks on such a laboratory.
4. Under NEPA, DHS must evaluate thoroughly the adequacy of existing emergency response programs and personnel. DHS must detail emergency response needs including notification of paid and volunteer first responders, training and equipment needs, and funding requirements.
5. Because DHS is exempt from the federal Freedom of Information Act, the disease laboratory would operate in a shroud of secrecy. A true disease research facility requires open scientific debate and peer review, both of which would be denied at this plant.
6. The proposed facility would violate the international Biological Weapons Convention, a treaty which the United States has upheld since 1972.

Louis Zeller, principal author of the League’s comments, said “Background documents show that the lab would engage in acquiring, growing, modifying, storing, stabilizing, packaging and dispersing biological agents.” Diseases which fit the research model include Bacillus anthracis, Clostridium botulinum toxin and Ebola.

In response to the disease laboratory proposal, residents of Granville and surrounding counties have gathered under the Granville Non-violent Action Team banner. Bill McKellar, newly elected head of GNAT, said, “Our goal is to stop the biological defense facility, period.” In their comments Granville residents addressed the environmental and social injustice of siting such a dangerous facility near hospital residents and prison inmates. Their concerns also included burdens on the water supply and the existence of a Superfund site.

Janet Marsh, Executive Director of the League, summed up the concerns of many North Carolinians: “We are being asked to trust a department which has neither competence nor credibility. No disease research lab can be sited without full public confidence.”

Seventeen years ago the League and GNAT worked together with Granville Residents Opposed to Waste and Granville Musicians and Friends to block the nation’s second largest hazardous waste incinerator.


More info: BREDL Comments on Notice of Intent to prepare an EIS for the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF)