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Another step toward sale of Plum Island

An aerial view of the southwestern end of

An aerial view of the southwestern end of Plum Island. (1993) Photo Credit: Newsday / Kathy Kmonicek

The federal government has taken a step toward selling Plum Island to the highest bidder or keeping it for a new purpose after closing the animal disease lab there.

The legislation covering the transfer of lab operations to a new national bio- and agro-defense facility in Kansas requires the property to be sold to the highest bidder, whether governmental or private.

In a notice published Thursday in the Federal Register, the General Services Administration announced the beginning of the preparation of the environmental impact statement on the proposed sale of the 840-acre island and a 9.5-acre support facility on Orient Point.

The GSA is handling the sale for the Department of Homeland Security, which has begun to transfer the research done at the Plum Island Animal Disease Center to a new facility that would be built in Kansas.

GSA spokeswoman Paula Santangelo said "this is the next step" in shutting down the animal disease lab and transferring its operations.

After a 45-day comment period, a draft impact statement will be prepared by summer by a contractor, MACTEC of Atlanta. A meeting will be scheduled on the draft in Southold before then, with presentations by the GSA and the Homeland Security Department, which owns the island. Then the final statement will be prepared, followed by another hearing and another 45-day comment period.

Those who wish to comment on the study before it begins can send comments to Phil Youngberg c/o John Dugan, General Services Administration, 10 Causeway St., room 925, Boston, MA 02222.

Members of the state Congressional delegation as well as other states that wanted the new lab have been trying to delay the transfer to the planned $450-million laboratory in Kansas. The Plum Island lab is slated to close in 2015 after operating on the island off Orient Point since 1954. The government would be responsible for cleaning up substances like spilled fuel and sewage.

Plum Island is a Biosafety Level 3 lab that studies foot-and-mouth disease and other foreign diseases that cannot be transferred to humans. The Kansas facility will be a Biosafety Level 4 lab, the highest level, and would be able to study diseases transferable to humans. Construction is slated to be completed by the end of 2014.

 

Island facts

 

  • Located two miles off the tip of Orient Point, the Plum Island Animal Disease Center conducts research on animal ailments such as foot-and-mouth disease and swine fever. It also conducts research into bioterrorism.
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  • 840 acres on island
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  • 220 staff members are assigned to facility; about half are research scientists.

- Compiled by Bill Bleyer

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