Stop The Bioterror Lab

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2007 In Review

Dear Coalition Supporter,

2007 was a great year for the Safety Net and the STOP the Bio-Terror Lab Coalition. We worked hard and created strategies that we put our hearts and souls into. We are proud to report back to you the instrumental goals we achieved with your support!

We are proud to announce that our two year goal of getting our issued viewed nationally was achieved this year. Not only have we gotten our issue heard nationally, residents around the country are now using our strategies to stand up and fight their beast of a BSL4 proposal. This is true EMPOWERMENT!!

Being heard as an environmental Injustice community was the GREATEST OBSTACLE in fighting Boston University and the politicians from day one. For 5 years we have tried to inform everybody and their momma about the environmental injustice the federal, state and local government was/is planning for the Roxbury/South End community and how that would affect every resident in the State of Mass. As residents who are normally ignored in power decisions concerning our community, the fight has been an uphill battle. We Are Still Standing and We are Standing Strong!

Thanks to your donations last year we've been able to afford transportation for residents to attend meetings and events, office supplies, financial cost for events, printing, phone bills internet access and office space. We are proud to list the following accomplishments with links to the local and national media coverage below.

To get involved or contact someone about the campaign check out our Take Action Page! See you in 2008!

Supreme Judicial Court Rules In Favor Of Roxbury/South End Residents!

On December 13th the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts (that state's highest court) delivered a victory to the residents of the South End and Roxbury that had sued to stop the controversial research laboratory being built by Boston University. The Supreme Judicial Court confirmed the decision of Suffolk Superior Court Judge Gants (from August 2006) that additional environmental impact studies should be done because previous environmental reviews were inadequate. It upheld the previous ruling that said the state's approval of the proposed Level 3 and Level 4 Biolab was "arbitrary and capricious". This means Boston University and the National Institutes for Health do not have state approval or permits to run the proposed BSL3 / 4 lab and they will have to go back to the drawing board and try yet again to do an Environmental Review that adequately addresses the unique threats this lab poses.

Read the news coverage:

Boston Globe article

South End News: SJC Sides with Opponents of BU Biolab

Scientist.com: Another Bumb for BU Biolab

NIH Risk Assessment Receives A Failing Grade!

National Research Council flunks the National Institutes of Health Supplementary Report

On August 23, 2007, the National Institutes of Health released its Draft Supplementary Risk Assessments and Site Suitability Analyses in which it concluded that the operation of the Boston University BSL4 laboratory would not pose a threat to the South End/Roxbury community and, indeed, would pose a greater risk to the community surrounding the alternative rural site. These conclusions were so suspect that Coalition scientists looked closely at the methodology and immediately found many flaws in the study.

Stop the Bioterror Lab Coalition members quickly organized to refute the report. After showing our strength in numbers at the September 20th public hearing at Faneuil Hall (see below), our concerns about the risk of operating a high level lab in Roxbury/South End were heard by the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs. Secretary Bowles took the unusual step of seeking independent scientific evaluation of the NIH's Supplementary Risk Assessment and hired the prestigious National Research Council. The agency paid them $50,000 to determine whether the Supplemental Risk Assessment adequately addressed worst case scenarios, examined alternate sites, and was scientifically sound.

In Washington, D.C. on Oct. 19th NIH officials presented their case to the prestigious 10-person panel of scientists. Representing the Coalition, Professors Ozonoff and Lipsitch gave stinging critiques of the study. One month later, the panell released its verdict — F. They found NIH's supplemental risk assessment was "not sound or credible." The report concluded that the NIH assessment that determined that the risks are "negligible" and "vastly overstated" can appear "unfounded and dismissive of public concerns." The NRC's report was a major blow to BU and other Biolab proponents. The council's report was submitted to the NIH as public comment. In 2008, the NIH must finalize the draft and resubmit the assessment to a federal judge.

Read the media coverage:

Newsweek article

Boston Globe article

another Boston Globe article

Washington Post Article

Read the NIH Supplementary Environmental Review


On Thursday, September 20 nearly 300 Stop the Bioterror Lab Campaign supporters from all over the area gathered at Faneuil Hall in a strong showing of opposition to the proposed lab! The public testimony went late into the night with residents, public officials, scientists, nurses, professors, students and public health workers testifying that a high-level research lab in the Roxbury/South End is unwanted, unnecessary, and will make our city and world a less safe place.

The National Institutes of Health called for the hearing after releasing their Supplementary Environmental Review and Report. Two months after the September 20th hearing the National Research Council (see above) validated concerned residents and scientists by giving the report an "F" and said the report used research methods that were so poor the report would not even qualify to be published in a science journal!

Watch press coverage of the hearing

Mandamus Complaint — Residents Legal Civil Right Complaint

Safety Net filed a civils rights complaint with Health and Human Services more than two years ago, claiming that the BU lab violated environmental justice principles by subjecting residents to further risks to their health and safety. Since HHS has failed to act on the complaint, our lawyers have asked the Court to order them to act. At a recent hearing in December Judge Saris did not dismiss the coalition's petition for mandamus but she did not allow the Office for Civil Rights to delay action until the end of the NEPA case. She ordered the Office for Civil Rights to issue a decision on the Title VI disparate impact case within 60 days of the redrafted Supplemental Risk Assessments study from NIH and to start their investigation well before then.

The Judge made abundantly clear that the final NEPA hearing will not take place this Spring and she insisted on having 3 months to rule before any BSL4 lab could be operational.

Congressional Oversight Hearings On The Proliferation Of Labs And Accidents

Have you read recently about all the accidents at high level labs across the country coming to light? In the past few months there has been more and more coverage of lab accidents that are bringing up many questions about safety and oversight of labs engaged in high level research. This national coverage is bringing new attention to the fight to stop the BU Bioterror lab and the unique dangers of BSL4 laboratories!

On October 4, 2007, the Congressional Committee on Oversight held a five hour hearing on the Proliferation of High-Security Bio-Laboratories chaired by Representative Stupak. The hearing focused on the proliferation, secrecy, and lack of oversight of the BSL4 laboratories. It became clear to the panel that Congress did not know where the laboratories were located, what research was being performed, whether such expansion was necessary, and if it could be free of risk. During the hearing, the Sunshine Project's Ed Hammond called for a stopping of all new High-Security labs being built — including the controversial BU Biolab in Boston!

Read Time's coverage of the hearing

Check out the AP's interactive map: Mishandled Germs - Problems At U.S. Labs That Research Deadliest Biological Agents

U.S. Labs experienced more than 100 accidents and missing shipments since 2003!
Check out the AP video on biolab 3 & 4 accidents or read the article.

Five Greater Boston Cities And Towns Pass Resolutions Against The Bioterror Lab!

In 2007 citizens from around the Greater Boston Area worked to pass resolutions in thier cities and towns calling on Boston to re-evaluate their support for the proposed Bioterror Lab. Cambridge, Brookline, Somerville, Newton, and Arlington have all passed resolutions against the lab! Even the City of Cambridge, known as a city friendly to biotech because of their multiple biotech research facilities in the city, thinks the Bioterror lab is a bad idea! To work on getting your city/town to pass a resolution, contact vicky.steinitz@umb.edu. You can also read the text of the Cambridge resolution or Brookline resolution.

Raging Grannies on the front page of the Boston Globe singing in opposition to Biolab
Raging Grannies on the front page of the Boston Globe singing in opposition to Biolab

SafetyNet Brings Attention To Boston University's Lack Of Compliance In Jobsite Diversity

The City of Boston requires that all contractors make a good-faith effort to ensure that at least half the workforce lives in the city, a quarter represents minority groups, and 10 percent are women. Boston University has said all along that this lab would bring construction jobs for Boston Residents (especially from the surrounding communities). This hasn't happened and Boston University is way, way below the compliance numbers. This is another broken promise by Boston University and is another example of the many false statements Boston University has made to the community to try and solicit support.

Read the article: BU Biolab Rapped on Job Site Diversity

Biolab Opponents Organize For City Council Hearing On Transportation Concerns

In July, residents concerned about Boston University's lack of transportation plan pressured the Boston City Council to hold a hearing inviting Boston University, city first responders (police, fire departments, etc), and representatives of the Boston Public Health Commission to testify on how the deadly pathogens would be transported to and from the proposed BSL4 lab. Boston University did not appear at the hearing but instead sent a statement saying their plan was not ready yet. Many community members and city councilors expressed deep concern over the lack of plan to date, lack of information on who is certified to transport such pathogens, and what neighborhoods would they pass through. Many questions were left unanswered and many residents felt it was another example of lack of transparency on the part of Boston University. More hearings will be scheduled in 2008, join the campaign email listserv or contact a person in your area to keep up to date!

city council hearing on transportation

Read the article: Civic Boston: Unconnected Dots To The Biolab

The Safety Net Organizes Event At Cathedral Housing Development

Community leaders from Villa Victoria and Cathedral organized a successful forum that voiced many of the community members concerns about the proposed Bioterror Lab. Residents spoke of the lack of respect and outreach by Boston University to the community that would be most impacted by the Biolab. Attendees of the event got to hear from scientists, community members, lawyers and city councilors on the efforts to stop the lab.

Stop The Biolab Coalition Organizes Parade, Die-In And Party In Blackstone Park During BIO Conference

Stop the Biolab Coalition members working with organizers of BioJustice 2007 organized several events during the BIO Convention in May to draw attention to the wide opposition to BU's proposed Bioterror Lab. The main event — a march from Dudley Commons to Blackstone park — was successful and drew a large crowd and lots of media.

BioJustice march

It was followed by a celebration in Blackstone Park where there was speeches by several public officials and coalition members, dancing and food! Members of the coalition also organized a "die-in" at the Institute of Contemporary Art where Mayor Menino and Governor Patrick were hosting a dinner. The "die-in" drew wide media coverage and landed the Stop the Biolab campaign on the front page of the metro (one of several times this year that we made the front page of major Boston news sources!)


Read the news coverage

Check out die-in photos



Stop The Biolab Coalition Organizes Dozens Of Forums

In addition to all the campaign victories, local and national press coverage, and large events organized this year members of the Stop the Biolab Coalition organized forums across the Boston and Greater Boston Area! From Roslindale to South Boston to Bunker Hill Community College — we reached hundreds of people this year in our efforts to educate people about the proposed BSL4 lab. Many thanks to our lawyers, scientists, elected officials and residents who volunteered their time, traveled all over the area, and mobilized residents all over the area to take action!

contact: roxsafetynet@yahoo.com