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From: TSS ()
Subject: Re: Panel to report on controversial Ames MAD COW animal lab today
Date: November 17, 2006 at 3:25 pm PST

In Reply to: Panel to report on controversial Ames MAD COW animal lab today posted by TSS on November 17, 2006 at 7:34 am:

Panel suggests changes at animal disease lab By PERRY BEEMAN

November 17, 2006

An independent panel today suggested changes in the way the National Animal Disease Center treats its sewage to protect Ames residents from exposure to mad cow and related diseases.

The panel decided that the lab had posed little if any risk to the public, determining that it is unlikely any infectious agents survived even treatment at the plant, let alone the Ames city treatment that comes after.

Nevertheless, members suggested that the disease lab incinerate solid material from necropsy labs, or send the material through a chemical process before the heating that already takes place in the center's sewage plant. That's just as a safety measure and is common at other labs.

A lab spokesman said the mad cow experiments will not be rescheduled until the city of Ames and lab officials can decide how to respond to the panel's findings.

Disease center animal caretakers Richard Auwerda and Timothy Gogerty on May 4 questioned whether treatment methods at the plant were effective in deactivating prions, which are abnormally shaped proteins that cause mad cow, sheep scrapie and chronic wasting disease, for example.

They wondered why blood, feces, urine and tissue fragments that could contain the proteins were not all incinerated, as was the case at the National Veterinary Services Laboratories next door, a sister lab in the federal system.

The National Animal Disease Center is the nation’s preeminent lab for studying domestic livestock diseases. The center has checked cattle for mad cow disease for years, and had planned to run experiments in which the prions that cause the disease would be injected into animals. That work was delayed pending the study into sewage-treatment procedures.

Auwerda said he feared for the safety of workers, the public and the livestock industry. He and Gogerty described a lack of protocols, or frequent changes in them, problems with equipment, bureaucratic runarounds, sewage backups that could threaten workers’ health, worker injuries, and other problems.

The lab promised to take the workers’ questions seriously, even though at one point one of their bosses threatened their jobs. Officials of the Agricultural Research Service, which runs the lab, later said the threat was inappropriate, and, in fact, a violation of federal rules.

“The main thing people need to realize is that NADC does a good job,” Auwerda said in June. “Basically, 99.9 percent of people here are very careful people, follow protocols, are hard workers and provide a much-needed service. We’ve had some problems when bureaucrats get involved.”

Many international protocols call for the wastes to be bleached for a time, then heated, unless a facility chooses to incinerate all operating-room wastes. NADC had been relying on heat only, but said that single method met the requirements of a number of international agencies.

The city of Ames, noting that its sewage treatment plant is not capable of deactivating the prions, called for a review. The 11-member panel was selected by the city and the federal Agricultural Research Service, which runs the disease center.

The center has agreed to review any recommendations made by the 11-member committee, which included national prion disease experts.

The disease center also faced federal and state actions over worker-safety violations, mishandling hazardous wastes, and for air-quality violations, including the emission of too much smoke. Smoke is a sign of incomplete combustion of the laboratory wastes sent to the incinerators at the lab.

The review panel dealt only with the sewage question.


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