The Department of Homeland Security said that its plans to relocate an agricultural disease research lab from an island off New York to Kansas’ Tornado Alley will end up costing double the original estimate.
The extra cost — a total of approximately $1.1 billion — will be incurred by trying to reduce the risk of a disease outbreak and incorporating new security recommendations in the vulnerable area.
The National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility is moving to a site in Kansas near thousands of head of cattle that is frequently hit by dangerous tornadoes, said Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), who is asking DHS to consider moving it somewhere less risky.
“While I am encouraged DHS recognizes the additional steps required to significantly reduce the risk of an outbreak, I remain greatly concerned about the cost-effectiveness of investing additional taxpayer dollars into this facility,” Tester wrote Secretary Janet Napolitano on Tuesday. “I believe that greater scrutiny needs to be placed on any future allocations of taxpayer dollars toward this facility.”
Tester also wants to know if Napolitano has considered upgrading the New York facility or moving the installation to an alternative location.
“What are the estimated costs of renovating the Plum Island Center to the operational and safety standards required?” Tester asked. “Are there any efforts underway by DHS to identify alternative sites for the proposed facility?”
Diseases that could infect herds should the facility become compromised by a twister include foot-and-mouth disease.
A Homeland Security report estimated the disease outbreak risk from the proposed Kansas facility at nearly 70 percent over the next 50 years.