Research into deadly viruses and biological weapons at US army lab shut down over fears they could escape. The Frederick News-Post reports that BSL-3 and BSL-4 laboratories at Fort Detrick are suspended and shut down on July 18. – according to USAMRIID.
During a June inspection by the CDC, it was found that the new procedures were not followed consistently. Inspectors also found mechanical issues with the chemical-based decontamination system as well as leaks, Vander Linden said.
Two breaches reported by USAMRIID to the CDC revealed problems with Fort Detrick’s periodic recertification of personnel and its ability to “implement and maintain containment procedures sufficient to contain selected substances or toxins” used in biosafety level 3 operations and 4 labs, according to the report.
The problems date back to May 2018, when storms flooded and destroyed a decades-old steam sterilization plant the institute had used to treat wastewater from its many laboratories.
On May 25, 2018, a leak was discovered in a storage tank. Initial reports indicated that the storage tank was overfilled, which activated a system backup that also failed, which eventually resulted in a leak outside the plant’s concrete containment wall.
The damage stopped research for months until the institute developed a new decontamination system. The laboratory switched to a chemical system for treating the wastewater.
The new system required several changes to the laboratory’s infrastructure, procedures and work practices that significantly increased complexity in operating in secure containment laboratories, Caree Vander Linden told the Army Times. “Mechanical issues and human error were among the issues cited by the CDC in issuing the suspension.”
The laboratory reported that the shutdown order was due to ongoing problems with infrastructure and wastewater treatment. This happens after several serious protocol violations. – according to a USAMRIID spokeswoman. The CDC declined to explain the closure, due to national security.
Del. Carol Krimm (D-Frederick) Krimm wants to review the shutdown of research due to security breaches under the 2010 recommendations. While USAMRIID notified local officials after the closure. Krimm questioned why they were not warned earlier, including when the CDC came to inspect the facility.
USAMRIID and local officials should review the situation and compare with the recommendations to make sure everything was followed.
“But something went wrong here, and I still don’t know what went wrong. But something did because the CDC closed the labs. Something went wrong. So I think there’s a need for more transparency, and I think when we has to do with the public, the more information, the better.”