The Bush administration usually waits until Fridays to make big announcementsand last week was no exception. On June 20, the Department of Homeland Security issued the long-awaited draft environmental impact statement for the National Bio and Agro Defense Facility, a key document in deciding where the federal disease research lab will be located.

Butner is one of six potential sites for the NBAF, which will study some of the world’s most contagious and virulent diseases, including some that can be transmitted from animals to humans. Other contenders include San Antonio, Texas; Flora, Miss.; Athens, Ga., Manhattan, Kan.; and Plum Island, N.Y., the current site of the lab.

The 1,000-page report includes analysis of the area’s geology, soils, environment and cultural resources, in addition to documents pertaining to health and safety. The N.C. Consortium, which includes representatives from the academic, biotech, economic development and agriculture interests, is lobbying Homeland Security to land the site in Butner.

There has been intense opposition to the NBAF from citizens in Granville, Durham and Wake counties. They are concerned about potential environmental hazards and health and safety issues, particularly for the 7,000 people living nearby in federal and state correctional centers, psychiatric hospitals and group facilities for those with developmental disabilities.

The 60-day comment period on the draft EIS begins June 27. Homeland Security will also hold public meetings during this time, although the date and location has not been announced. The draft is posted at More information is also available through Homeland Security’s Web site,

Comments can be submitted orally or in writing at the meeting, or by phone, fax or mail.

Toll-free fax: 1-866-508-6223

Toll-free phone: 1-866-501-6223

Mail: U.S. Department of Homeland Security c/o James V. Johnson, Mail Stop #2100 245 Murray Lane SW, Building 410 Washington, D.C. 20528

The documents are available in PDF form. They are large files, so they may take time to download.

For more information, go to DHS Web site, and click on “Environmental Impact Statement.”