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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

BU Bioterror Lab

So many bad reasons, but the Biosafety lab still has the Mayor’s backing

Mayor Menino speaks out against rent control, and at the same time supports Boston University’s construction of a level 4 Biosafety lab. One of the reasons the Mayor gave for rejecting rent control is it would reduce the property tax revenue. However the Biosafety lab will be another tax exempt property in the city of Boston.

Level 4 is a designation of pathogen for that there is no known cure. It’s a classification of an organism that causes severe human disease and is a serious hazard to laboratory workers. It may present a high risk of spread to the community and there is usually no effective treatment.

I don’t know why the Mayor is helping Boston University build a research facility that has the potential of generating revenue and prestige for BU, but gives nothing tangible back to the community. We can be assured of only two things with a level 4 Biosafety lab situated in the South end. The first would be rising rents. The second is the increased health risks associated with this lab, health risks that wouldn’t exist if the lab didn’t exist.

It’s a terrible mistake to locate a level 4 Biosafety lab in a heavily populated area, and a huge error to even consider allowing BU to operate the facility. Boston University has a long history of routinely mishandling chemical and medical waste. In 1997 BU was the recipient of the largest federal environmental action ever taken against an academic institution. $2 million in fines and penalties were levied against BU. These judgements resulted from BU’s improper handling of contaminated waste at the BU medical center. The same Medical Center where they now want to build this level 4 Biosafety lab.

A reasonable person would conclude the 1997 environmental issues improved enough for BU to win the grant to build the lab, but that’s not true. Between January 2000 and August 2004 Boston University violated limits on toxic discharges to the sewer 75 times. They violated Health Commission rules for not reporting research on recombinant DNA. There was no staffing plan, or manuals for its wastewater treatment rooms. The public has no idea what is in the Biosafety lab proposal because as of this writing Boston University refused to release it.

A former employee told me he wouldn’t be surprised if a package of botulism sat on the loading dock for a week because the receiving department couldn’t find the purchase order. Considering these dangerous agents will be transported via United Parcel Service, Fedex, or DHL, and the Boston University Medical Center is a huge bureaucracy/ autocracy this scenario is not far fetched.

Why is the South End such a great location for a Bioterror research lab? Is it because there is a house of correction, and two homeless shelters nearby? Populations that nobody cares about? The kind of people that have no voice while BU dumps chemical/medical waste, trains its medical and dental students, and conducts drug studies? Let’s face it BU view’s the patient population as training material. Boston University has a full time staff, and seasoned attorneys to conceal mistakes.

There are other fact’s to consider. My views may not be politically correct, but they do have merit. Racism and prejudice are not my nature. However the fact is most of the September 11th hijackers were legally admitted to the United States. Many arrived on student visas, and were here months or even years prior to the attacks. Some of the medical students are not American citizens. An even larger number of foreign nationals can be found at the BU Dental school. In fact much of the Dental schools faculty are from Arab countries who attended schools throughout the Middle East, and travel back on a regular basis. Some are from countries where terrorists operate freely, and others are from nations that at one time or another was listed as state sponsors of terrorism. Is it wise to build a Biosafety facility on this campus where the lab employees have daily contact with this population?

Why can’t BU just locate this Lab behind the gates of a military base like Ft Devens? I would feel better with the lab located on a military reservation in Ayer instead of on Albany Street. I think most of us would sleep better knowing the Army is watching the facility rather than minimum wage hospital security guards.

The decade old strategic plan of building a Hotel is best for all parties. This scenario will provide the city with taxable property while potentially providing more employment opportunity to the average individual. This also is a much more efficient use of space without the characteristic risks of a level 4 lab in an urban environment.