POSTED: 9:48 p.m. HST, Jul 11, 2012
Administrators and scientists from the University of Hawaii met with Kalaeloa residents tonight at Kapolei High School to explain plans to build a large-scale Biosafety Level 3 laboratory on two-acre site near the Hawaii National Guard hangar and offices and to allay fears that such a facility could be a hazard to those who live in the area.
About 75 community members attended the information session, many with concerns about the potential for accidental spread of infectious diseases that would be studied at the proposed Pacific Health Research Laboratory.
“I understand the need for this kind of lab so we can respond to possible outbreaks,” said Makaha resident Christine Johnson, a former registered nurse. “But I’m also concerned about the potential for catastrophe. You really cannot prevent everything from happening. I think about what happened in Japan during the earthquake. We’re an island and if something were to happen here, it could destroy everything.”
The University of Hawaii was one of 13 universities selected to be a part of the National Institutes of Health national network of 13 Biosafety Level 3 laboratories. As a Level 3 laboratory, PHRL would be capable of testing for infectious agents, including tuberculosis, severe acute respiratory syndrome, and West Nile virus. A smaller Biosafety Level 3 laboratory already exists as part of the John A. Burns School of Medicine in Kakaako.