Letter to Boston Mayor Marty Walsh from Coalition to Stop the BU Bioterror Lab

August 21, 2014

Mayor Martin J. Walsh
One City Hall Square
Suite 500
Boston MA 02201-2013

Dear Mayor Walsh:

We, the undersigned advocates, scientists, environmental justice organizations, civil rights lawyers, religious associations, community activists, union members, organized nurses and city residents, are firmly opposed to the operation of a BSL 4 laboratory in the City of Boston. The risks involved in the manipulation of highly deadly pathogens are unacceptable. The risks far outweigh any possible benefits.

As Mayor, you have an extraordinary responsibility in this regard. We ask you to take a public stand and block Level 4 research everywhere in the City of Boston. This may be the last opportunity to prevent a public health disaster.

The Boston University National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories - the NEIDL - like the dozen other high-containment laboratories in the United States, will operate without effective national oversight. There are no national safety standards. No federal agency has the authority to impose research procedures or to punish non-compliance. Nothing is in place to ensure that these laboratories are even following their own protocols.

No one was listening when the Government Accountability Office warned that risks will increase as high-containment laboratories proliferate. Safety and security risks will be greater for new laboratories with less experience. These laboratories have enhanced security risks because of their potential as targets for terrorism or theft from either external or internal sources.

We must all listen now.

Two recent accidents at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - the reference laboratory for the whole world - revealed major safety violations, untrained laboratory personnel and improperly secured shipments of hazardous material. Virulent strains of anthrax and H5N1 bird flu were inadvertently transported from one laboratory to another. That same avian flu virus killed half of the 650 persons that it has infected since 2003.

When laboratory equipment malfunctioned, CDC technicians improvised procedures. Laboratory workers routinely entered the CDC using someone else’s badge. In sum, there was a culture of laxity.

If the world-renowned CDC was allowing access to unauthorized personnel, how can we be confident that Boston University will not do the same? Dr. Richard Ebright, Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Rutgers University, concluded, “It is clear that the CDC cannot be relied upon to police its own select agent labs.” Warning against placing a high-risk laboratory in an academic institution, Dr. Ebright said, “Universities cut corners.”

Because human error itself cannot be eliminated, we must limit its access. The director of the CDC, Dr.Thomas Frieden, joined leading scientists calling for a sharp reduction in the number of laboratories permitted to work with dangerous pathogens, a sharp reduction in the number of persons authorized to do such research, and a sharp reduction in the number of pathogens being studied.

We cannot trust Boston University to implement and maintain a culture of safety. Dr. Daniel A. Goodenough, recently retired Professor of Cell Biology at the Harvard Medical School, reminded us that Boston University has a history of safety violations. “The NEIDL is expected to operate for 20 to 30 years. As time goes on, the facility will become more and more dangerous as special safety precautions become routine.”

Yours truly,

Laura Maslow-Armand, Esq.
Staff Attorney
Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice

Alternatives for Community & Environment, Inc.
American Friends Service Committee
Arlington United for Justice with Peace
Bishop Filipe C. Teixeira, OFSJC
Black Economic & Justice Institute
Black Community Information Center
Boston Branch NAACP
Boston Society of Vulcans
Brayton and Suzanne Shanley, Agape Community
Brazilian Immigrant Center
Brazilian Women’s Group
Brother Anthony Zuba, Capuchin Franciscans, Jamaica Plain
Brother Robert Kinney, co-chair Leadership Forum
Cambridge United for Justice with Peace
Charles Clemons, producer TOUCH 106.1 FM
Charles Hamilton, Houston Institute for Race and Justice at Harvard Law School
Charles Ogletree, Executive Director, Institute for Race and Justice and Professor at Harvard Lw School
Charles C. Yancey, Boston City Councillor
Cheryl Clyburn Crawford, Community Organizer
Chuck Turner, former Boston City Councillor
City Life/Vida Urbana
Cornelius Reddick, plaintiff in Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act litigation
Conservation Law Foundation
M. Daniel Richardson, Founding Member, Garrison Trotter Neighborhood Association
Darrin D. Howell, Community Organizer
Denise Granger and Jane Morrissey, Sisters of Saint Joseph of Springfield
Dianne Wilkerson, former Massachusetts state senator
Donovan Walker, Development Neighborhood Coalition
Dr. Catherine Mooney, Boston College School of Theology and Ministry
Dr. Julie Leavitt, Doctor of Ministry, LMHC
Dolly Battle, member of the Community Liaison Committee (Boston University)
Dorchester People for Peace
Frances (Lucky) Devlin, Neighborhood First South Boston
Freedom Boston
Gloria L. Fox, State Representative, Massachusetts General Court
Grace Ross, former Green-Rainbow Party candidate for Governor
Greater Boston United for Justice with Peace
Green Space, Chelsea Collaborative
Grove Hall Neighborhood Development Association
Haley House, Inc.
Health Justice for Boston
Immigrant Service Providers Group/Health
Jeanne Guillemin, author of Biological Weapons, Colorado University Press
Jewish Alliance for Law and Social Action
John Bach, Quaker Chaplain at Harvard
Kodjo Agblekpe, President of Roxbury Community College Alumni Association
Leadership Forum
League of United Latin American Citizens
Liz Malia, State Representative, Massachusetts General Court
Lolita Kelsey, BNN-TV Producer “The Real Talk Show”
Louise Elisa, II, VP Garrison Trotter Neighborhood Association
Lynn Klotz, Senior Science Fellow at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation
Mako Nagasawa, Inter-Varsity Christian Chaplain at Harvard
Marc Pelletier, MSc, cellular and molecular biologist
Massachusetts Association of Minority Law Enforcement Officers
Massachusetts Nurses Association
Mass-Care, Ture Richard Turnbull, Executive Director
Mel King, South End Technology Center
Muhammad’s Mosque #11
New England Peace Pagoda monks
Newton Dialogues on Peace and War
Ozell Hudson, Jr, Esq, former director, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights (Boston)
Pax Christi Boston
Poor People’s United Fund
Rabbi Katy Allen
Rabbi Lea Campolo
Rabbi Toba Spitzer
Reverend Christine Hribar, First Church, Wenham
Reverend John Gibbons, Senior Minister First Parish Unitarian Universalist Bedford
Reverend Matt Carrika, Protestant Chaplain at Brandeis
Reverend Meg Hess, Doctor of Ministry, pastor Old Cambridge Baptist Church
Reverend Nancy Richardson, United Church of Christ, retired
Reverend Rob Mark, Church of the Covenant Boston
Roxbury Safety-Net, Klare Allen, Alma Feliciano
Samantha Smith Chapter Veterans for Peace
Scott Campbell, Harvard Epworth United Methodist Church, Cambridge
Sister Barbara Quinn, RSCJ
Sister Clare Carter, New England Peace Pagoda
Sister Eleanor MacLellan, RSCJ
Sister Margherita Cappelli
Sister Marian Burke, RSCJ
Sister Nancy Kehoe, RSCJ
South Boston Residents for Peace
Susan Moir, ScD, Jamaica Plain
The House of Peace Ipswich
Tito Jackson, Boston City Councillor
Toxic Action, Sylvia Broude
Union of Minority Neighborhoods
Union Park Neighborhood Association
United for Justice and Peace, Vicky Steinitz
Valerie Stephens, actress, vocalist, founder of “Innovative Arts Network” an educational resource company
Veterans For Peace, Chapter 9, Smedley D. Butler Brigade
Watertown Citizens
Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom