Review Process for BU Biolab Revs Up Again

Jenny Rushlow | @jennyrushlow

Many of you have been waiting for the next opportunity to voice your concern over the BU Biolab. Your time is coming – the state’s public comment process will begin soon, and the Patrick Administration needs to hear from you.

The proponents of Boston University’s proposed National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories (NEIDL) – known as the BU Biolab – in the densely populated urban environmental justice community of Roxbury/ South End are in the process of submitting the risk analysis of their project for environmental review. Having failed at this twice before – in the view of the Massachusetts courts and the National Research Council, among others – this is the third time  the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and BU have attempted to adequately explain how the risks associated with placing a a high-level biocontainment laboratory that would test pathogens like ebola and the plague are acceptable for this community.

The latest Risk Assessment, which was recently completed by NIH, is now under final consideration by that same agency pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). CLF has reviewed the final Risk Assessment and, like NIH and BU’s past attempts, it still falls extremely short of addressing concerns about the lab raised by community members.

In particular, NIH’s final Risk Assessment  does not meaningfully address the fact that the Boston location selected for siting the NEIDL comes with substantially more risk potential than rural or suburban alternative sites. The final Risk Assessment also fails to fully analyze the ways in which the environmental justice community living near the NEIDL site, which already battles disproportionately compromised health, would be unfairly affected by proximity to the facility – which unfortunately has great potential for disaster in the event of an accident or malevolent attack. For a copy of the written comments submitted to NIH by CLF and its legal partners last Friday explaining why the latest Risk Assessment is still insufficient, click here.

BU will soon submit its Risk Assessment for review by the state pursuant to the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act (MEPA), at which point the public will have the opportunity to comment. Public input is the heart of the environmental review process. It is essential that the Patrick administration hear why this facility presents too much risk, and not enough benefit, for this already overburdened environmental justice community. CLF will provide updated information here on how you can submit public comment as soon as those details become available. Check back here soon for how you can get involved!

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