A PEACH OR A PLUM?

2 Jul

PLUM ISLAND. For years and years it’s been a place of controversy because of what is said to be taking place there … and a mystery riddled with speculation because of its confidential animal disease testing practices.

For those of us who are not familiar with it, Plum Island is an animal facility comprising of various labs (Author Nelson DeMille was so intrigued by the subject matter that he wrote a book called Plum Island.) Formerly the site of Fort Terry, Plum Island is situated less than two miles off the north fork shore at Orient Point, Long Island and is only accessible by Government Ferryboat. The center comprises 70 buildings on 840 acres.  The island has its own fire department, power plant, and water treatment plant. There are security guards stationed at the island, but only two are armed.

FADDL (Foreign Animal Disease Diagnostic Lab) is a diagnostic facility that is a full service diagnostic laboratory receiving samples from around the world. PIADC (Plum Island Animal Disease Center) comprises various laboratory facilities and studies exotic diseases of animals. PIADC was designated a bio-level 5 facility, now mandated by Congress which enabled Plum Island to study and research diseases and vaccines for diseases that would not be allowed in the Continental US. Congress allowed for this status simply because it is an island.

In 1954, while it was still Fort Terry, the Army handed the island over to the Department of Agriculture to establish a research center whose employees would dedicate their time to studying foot and mouth disease in cattle. By August 1954, animals occupied holding areas at Plum Island and bio-weapons research was ongoing within Building 257 on Plum Island. The USDA facility, PIADC, continued work on biological warfare research until the US program was ended by Richard Nixon in 1969. The bio-weapons research at Building 257 and Fort Terry was shrouded in mystery and secrecy. But though the U.S. government dismissed the use of biological warfare experiments on the Island, Long Island-based Newspaper Newsday brought to light some documents that revealed otherwise.

1992 was the first time that members of the media were allowed on the island and in 1995, The Dept. of Agriculture was issued a hefty fine for storing hazardous materials on the island.

Through the years, activists in Long Island have fought against Plum Islands expansion to include diseases that affect humans. In 2002, the islands disease control center was transferred from the DOA to the Dept. of Homeland Security.

Here are some of the diseases studied at Plum Island over the years:

1. Foot-and-Mouth Disease (PIADC is currently the only laboratory in the U.S. equipped with research facilities that permit the study of foot-and-mouth disease)

2. Hog Cholera

3. African Swine Fever

4. Equine West Nile Virus

5. Lyme Disease (The index case for Lyme Disease started in a young child who lived a few miles from the Plum Island ferryboat dock)

6. Polio (in 1991, the centers freezers, which contained samples of polio and other diseases that can be transferred to humans, were threatened due to a hurricane-caused power outage)

7. Anthrax (many people think that Anthrax has been and continues to be studied on Plum Island)

Plum Island Animal Research Center

Plum Island Animal Research Center

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One Response to “A PEACH OR A PLUM?”

  1. AMY August 17, 2009 at 3:43 pm #

    VERY INTERESTING & INSPIRING.THE STORY ABOUT THIS ISLAND IS STILL FASCINATING.THANK YOU FOR WRITING ABOUT IT

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