Defensive-germ-warfare testing will resume at Dugway Proving Ground in about a month, assuming state and federal officials give final approval. This is six years after such tests were halted to upgrade lab equipment.
In a Deseret News interview Wednesday, Dugway's commander, Col. Frank Cox, said he has received a directive for fiscal 1991 from the headquarters of the Test and Evaluation Command, telling him to resume testing.Dugway stopped testing pathogens in 1985. Since then, Cox said, "We spent several million dollars renovating, inside of Baker Lab, three rooms to do pathogen testing. We brought those three rooms up to state of the art."
On April 24, a biological safety committee will tour the revamped Baker Laboratory facility. The group will include Dr. Susan Mottice, director of the state's Public Health Lab; the department heads for infectious diseases and preventive medicine from Fitzsimmons Army Hospital; and a representative from the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta.
"They'll come out and we'll present our plan to them - our safety plan, our test plan and so forth," Cox said. "And they will approve it or disapprove it."
The experts will tour the facility, check out the containment chamber where the defensive biological warfare tests will be carried out, inspect the vapor hood and glove box and talk with the technicians there.
Dugway thinks the lab is ready to go, but if the experts find fault with it, the Army will have to work out the bugs.
On the other hand, if they agree on the safety of the tests, Cox will notify the state's Citizens Advisory Committee on Dugway that the base intends to resume testing. He earlier told the committee that he would give a 30-day notice before the commencement of tests.
Cox said he hopes state science adviser Randy Moon will be able to set up a meeting of the advisory committee for April 25, assuming permission is given for the testing. If that isn't possible, Cox said, "I will provide each member a copy of the plan, and then we'll convene a meeting at everybody's convenience."
After about a month's shakedown without pathogens, testing of dangerous organisms will resume.