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View Diary: BSL4 Labs in Galveston (34 comments)

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  •  I guess I had the count wrong... (none)
    I thought Colorado had one, too. Actually, the info is hard to find. I got this from a site protesting the building of a BSL4 in Boston. Recently Seattle abandoned plans to build one, too.

    Currently, there are 5 BSL4 laboratories in the United States.  One is located at the CDC in Atlanta, Georgia; the second is located at Ft. Detrick in Frederick, Maryland; the third is located in San Antonio, Texas; the fourth is the Rocky Mountain Laboratory in Hamilton, Montana; and the fifth is in Bethseda, Maryland currently in standby mode and not operational.

    •  You were right (none)
      You mentioned six. You were correct. I was curious partially because the "Kit Bond" life sciences building ( Columbia, Missouri ) is often in the rumor mill as a front for biological warfare research.

      Thank you for finding the information and the breakdown of which are operational.

    •  more BSL-4 facilities (none) has an outdated list that shows 15 BSL-4 proposed labs in the US as well as a shorter list that agrees with your list. There is also a second BSL-4 facility listed as under construction in Galveston, TX. Note that there are a number of facilities listed as planned that are mostly (except for boston) co-located (at least in the same city) with other BSL-4 facilities. There are many other sites applying for BSL-4, many in cities other than those which presently have BSL-4 facilities.

      The two in Galveston (one may still be under construction) are Univ of Texas Medical Branch facilities.

      Wikipedia lists another BSL-4 in texas(including the one on your list): Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research in San Antonio, TX

      I count about 8 BSL-3 or higher facilities (plus two under construction) in the half of texas and in lousianna where serious damage from Rita is possible including one clasified facility (at least it is not listed as a biodefense aerosol facility). Anthrax and HIV, just for comparison, can be studied in a lab as low as BSL-2 depending on the nature of the experiment. And these are only from a map that doesn't list facilities not somewhat involved in biodefense. I did not count the facilities in northwest texas.

      Locked in freezers (even if rugged) and fumigating with formaldehyde sounds very inadequate to me. Formaldehyde gas will not help much if the inner walls of the facility are breached. That sounds like it would be adequate for a small earthquake where you have enough shaking to break containers but not compromise the airtight walls. What I would consider adequate for a serious breach (inner wall) is autoclaving all the containers for long enough to heat the contents enough to kill everything inside. Unfortunately, that would mean that you would later need to transport new samples to the facility later if it survives and would undoubtedly set the research back as experiments would need to be repeated. BSL-4 labs are designed to be tough. It is a building within a building. If the top floor of the building is breached and the air handler equipment and ducts are damaged, the formaldehyde will have already killed anything that might have been airborne inside the lab, and anything embedded in the hepa filters, that could leak out through the vents. It would take some pretty massive flying debris (large airplane, fuel trucks, concrete trucks, railroad cars, water tower, maybe a large rooftop airconditioner or a large helicopter) to punch through a total of 18" of concrete (about the same thickness as the pentagon wall that was hit but in two separate walls).

      UTMB (galveston) BSL-4 building details : keiller building (too which lab is attached) withstood category 4 hurricane carla, 31 feet above sea level, 8 inch concrete surrounded by 10 inch concrete rated for 140MPH winds, 12 inch ceiling, 70 foot pilings. different description describes the building as being completed in 2003 and commissioned in 2004, a lab of 2140 sq ft surrounded by 10,000 sq ft and gives a picture.

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