Officials want more Plum Island studies

A security patrol jeep is parked in front

A security patrol jeep is parked in front of the Plum Island Animal Disease Center. The federal facility is moving to Kansas in 2019. (Credit: AP file photo)

Members of New York's congressional delegation have called on federal agencies to further study environmental contamination on Plum Island caused by the high security animal disease lab there.

A letter sent Friday to the federal agencies in charge of operating and shuttering the Plum Island Animal Disease Center outlined eight areas that they want studied, including soil and groundwater contamination and an inventory of solid waste sites.

"Our offices have been made aware of several outstanding environmental concerns that were not adequately addressed," wrote Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, Sen. Charles Schumer and Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton). The joint letter was sent to officials at the General Services Administration, which is handling the sale of the island, and Department of Homeland Security, which runs the lab.

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The letter cited concerns raised by local environmentalists and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, about the GSA's final environmental impact statement.

The EPA said the report "does not provide a sufficiently detailed evaluation of the potential impacts of the sale of Plum Island." That includes lacking a cleanup plan for lingering pathogens and details about other contamination.

The lab, which has operated off the eastern tip of Long Island since 1954, is slated to be closed after the federal government builds a $1 billion high-tech National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility in Kansas, scheduled for completion in 2019.

Federal law requires the island be sold to the highest bidder to pay for the new lab.

The elected officials requested an "inventory and assessment" on issues that include fuel storage infrastructure, the sewage treatment facility, asbestos and drinking water.

But they also want to keep open the research facility, which employs 100 scientists and 300 support personnel.

"As you are aware, we have supported the work done at PIADC over the years and are in favor of keeping this facility operational," they wrote. "Regardless of the future of Plum Island, it is important that full disclosure and reporting on environmental issues is addressed."

The GSA did not respond to a request for comment on the letter Friday. But previously, both the GSA and Homeland Security defended the environmental review. The GSA said it "identifies measures to mitigate those impacts where appropriate."

Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) called on the environmental assessments to be done quickly.

"We cannot make a decision on the future of Plum Island if we do not know the full extent of potential environmental hazards," she said in a statement.

Schumer (D-N.Y.) in a statement said "we need a top-to-bottom environmental review of Plum Island."

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