FREDERICK, Md. (WDVM) — October marks three months since the closure of U.S. Army medical research laboratories at Fort Detrick.
Now, Army leadership is providing details about changes being made to re-open safely.
Army leadership from Fort Detrick reported to members of the Containment Laboratory Community Advisory Committee Tuesday to address the suspension of biosafety level 3 and 4 labs at the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID).
“We’ve had to make adjustments. We can’t keep doing things the way we’ve always done it,” explained Commanding General for Medical Research and Development Command at Fort Detrick, Brigadier General Mike Talley
The labs were closed down on July 18 after a cease and desist order by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) after finding mechanical issues and human error in treating laboratory wastewater.
“My intent is to not only to be able to meet the standards laid out by the CDC and the Army [Inspector General], but we’re going to go beyond that,” Talley said.
Talley outlined that CDC personnel have been embedded in the labs. Progress includes reviewing about 31 standard operating procedures, and adding more non-commissioned officer involvement.
“A majority of our laboratory workers are contractors–putting teeth in the contracts to ensure they’re following the shalls, wills and musts are things we’ve done in the interim,” said Talley.
Training is a main focus moving forward–Talley explains that personnel working within the higher-level labs will go through certification.
“Only those personnel that have been certified through the training are going to be allowed to go back into the laboratories, and there is a solid sustainment plan to keep their skills up– we haven’t done this before,” Talley explained.
Mayor Michael O’Connor says the plans do sound promising to ensure community safety, but communication is key.
“The ongoing communication is what’s really critical. When there’s any kind of incident at the Fort that the community could learn about, it’s important for us in leadership to hear about that before we read about it in the newspaper,” O’Connor said.
Army leadership aims to construct a new steam sterilization plant at Fort Detrick. This will be put out for bid worldwide.