Expert Report

Evaluation of the Health and Safety Risks of the New USAMRIID High Containment Facilities at Fort Detrick, Maryland (2010)

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The U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) is expanding its biocontainment facilities at Fort Detrick in Frederick, Maryland. These facilities are used to study infectious agents (pathogens) that cause serious or potentially lethal diseases. At the request of Congress, this National Research Council report provides an independent review of the Environmental Impact Statement the Army prepared to meet regulatory requirement for expansion, which explores a range of possible consequences that could result from a mishap at the new facilities. The report finds several problems with the Environmental Impact Statement, including a failure to provide credible technical analyses and to consider all possible routes of exposure to the general public. However, the report's authoring committee concluded that current safety procedures and regulations at the facilities meet or exceed accepted standards, giving the committee a "high degree of confidence" that appropriate protections for workers and the public are in place. In going forward, the Army and USAMRIID should review their methods and procedures for preparing an Environmental Impact Statement, more actively train personnel regarding accountability and responsibility, and more proactively reach out to the local community to inform it of its safety and security policies and procedures and to design constructive approaches for communicating timely information should an adverse incident occur.