The U.S. Army is looking at many options as it reconsiders plans for a germ warfare defense laboratory not just the earlier mentioned option of moving it to a remote island in the Pacific.
Lt. Col. John Chapla, Army headquarters spokesman, said Thursday that the Army is also considering, for example, building a less-sophisticated lab in Utah or empaneling a local citizen review group to oversee lab operations."Those were options suggested by Gov. (Norm) Bangerter during the hearings in Utah" on the lab's draft environmental impact statement, Chapla said. "We are considering options raised by other people in the hearings, too."
The Army announced late last week that because of heavy opposition to the lab in Utah, it was reconsidering its plans. Chapla said Thursday that such reconsideration is part of the environmental impact statement process anyway.
Last week, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, called for the Army to move the lab to Johnson Atoll in the Pacific where any mistakes would not threaten a nearby metropolitan area.
Army officials said they would reconsider that, even though their draft environmental impact statement had rejected such an option without saying why. But Col. Wyett H. Colclasure II, director of materiel testing at Dugway, said Johnston is only a half-mile wide and 1.5 miles long, and is already so crowded with other operations that building the lab there would be difficult.
Bangerter earlier said he questions why the Army says it only wants to do "biosafety level 3" testing which would use only germs that cause disease that have vaccines or cures but wants to build a biosafety level 4 lab which could test germs with unknown characteristics and no known cures.
He has said if the Army really only wants to do BL3 testing, then it should build a BL3 lab. He has also called for a local review board to track testing at the Army lab to ensure its activities do not threaten local residents.