Not in my backyard: Tracy community mounts opposition
to proposed bio-defense facility
at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
Screenshot courtesy Lawrence Livermore
By Caitilin McAdoo, Bay City News Service
April 18, 2007
LIVERMORE (BCN) - Although some activists, community
members and the Tracy City
Council have voiced their opposition to a proposed plan to
build a national bio and agro defense facility at the Lawrence
Livermore National Laboratory, site 300, lab spokesman Steve Wampler
said Tuesday that there is also a great deal of support for the
The California Department of Food and Agriculture, the California
Cattleman's Association, the California Veterinary Association,
the California Farm Bureau, the California Poultry Federation,
the California Wool Growers Association and the San Joaquin Board
of Supervisors are all in favor of the proposed laboratory, Wampler
Those opposed to the facility include the Tracy City Council,
which voted in January to oppose the proposed facility, and an
estimated 7,000 residents who have signed petitions, called, e-mailed
and sent letters to the Department of Homeland Security urging
it to eliminate site 300 from its list of potential locations
for the bio-defense lab, according to environmental activist group
Tri-Valley Communities Against a Radioactive Environment, or Tri-Valley
The Department of Homeland Security sent its site selection team
to the laboratory on Monday. Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory,
in conjunction with the University of California, is one of 17
prospective locations for the facility.
Some part of the facility would be a Biosafety Level-4 laboratory,
the highest safety level designation, which is reserved for facilities
where scientists work with dangerous and exotic agents that pose
a high risk of life threatening disease, aerosol transmission
or an unknown risk of transmission, according to the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention. Tri-Valley CARES has argued that
site 300 is inappropriate for the facility because of its proximity
Bay Area cities.
Site 300 is located about six miles southwest of downtown Tracy
and 15 miles southeast of Livermore. Site 300 is More than 7 million
people live within a 60-mile radius of the facility, according
to Tri-Valley CARES.
Wampler said that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has
a Biosafety Level-4 laboratory in the middle of downtown Atlanta
and has never had a release.
The lab would be working with extremely small amounts of dangerous
microorganisms and other biological agents in a controlled, secure
facility with the highest levels of safety precautions in place,
Tri-Valley CARES, however, has argued that the proposal did not
sufficiently address concerns about earthquake safety, fire safety
or how the facility would hold up during a possible terrorist
Site 300 is directly above an active fault, the Elk Ravine fault,
and is in an area susceptible to frequent wildfires, according
to Tri-Valley CARES. The property is also currently a federal
superfund cleanup site.
Wampler said those concerns would be addressed during an extensive
environmental impact study that would be conducted if site 300
makes it onto the Department of Homeland Security's final list.
He also noted that the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
has its own fire department.
In the recent past, scientists at Lawrence Livermore National
Laboratory, working with scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory,
developed the Department of Homeland Security's BioWatch technology,
sensors that sniff out plague and anthrax. There are currently
sensors set up in at least 30 of the nations cities, Wampler said.
With early detection of plague or anthrax, people can be treated
before they develop symptoms, which increases their likelihood
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