The Birds of Plum Island

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Top Tier Gear USA

Plum Island. First a bit of history…..

Plum Island is situated off the North East coast of Long Island in New York State. It has an area of some 830 acres. It was allocated to the US Department of Agriculture in 1954 for the establishment of a research centre to study foot and mouth disease in cattle.

In 1994 dead bird specimens were found outside, open to air at the facility and in 1995 the Department of Agriculture was fined $111,000 for storing hazardous chemicals in an insecure fashion at the facility.

In 2000 an application was made to upgrade the facility into a bio safety level 4 centre studying human as well as animal diseases but persistent activism against this plan saw the Congress backtrack and the application was reconsidered.

Having an annual budget of more than $16,000,000 ostensibly to study foot and mouth disease, it was decided in late 2002 to transfer the facility from the Department of Agriculture to the Department of Homeland Security.

Plum Island has its own fire department, water treatment plant, power plant and security and access to the island is limited to a government two ferryboat stations,  one at Orient Point on Long Island and the other at Old Saybrook Connecticut.

As an animal disease research centre any wild animals on the island are shot on sight, birds however are not. Not only are they tolerated, they are encouraged, indeed the Audubon Society  has declared the island as an important bird area, and as such Osprey nests have been provided there. Bluebird boxes and kestrel houses have also been provided. The centre is listed as studying more than 40 foreign animal diseases including those requiring level  3 bio safety status. Their freezers hold samples of zoonotic diseases, diseases that can be past from animals to humans.

A book, Lab 257 by Michael C. Carroll phD, has alleged that three infectious disease outbreaks originated on the island. Duck plague in 1967, Lyme Disease in 1975 ….Lyme is actually an area in Connecticut local to Old Saybrook ferry terminal, and West Nile Virus in 1999. The allegations have been vehemently denied by the government.

Birds, just like the ones being encouraged to nest on Plum Island are known vectors of zoonotic diseases. The most serious ones are:

  • Avian flu  H5N1
  • Avian tuberculosis
  • Campylobacteriosis
  • Cryptococcosis
  • Chamydiosis
  • Giardiasis
  • Cryptosporidosis
  • New Castle Disease
  • Salmonellosis
  • Sarcocystis
  • Yesinia  pestis ( bubonic plague)
  • West Nile Virus
  • Lyme Disease ( yes from birds)
  • Eastern Equine Encephalitis (ditto)
  • Cilibacillosis
  • Histoplasmosis

So, this facility, run by the Department of Homeland Security, a facility that has flouted the rules so blatantly in the past that Hilary Clinton recommended that Congress look at what goes on there, is storing and working with zoonotic diseases whilst at the same time encouraging birds that can carry numerous zoonotic diseases to congregate at the site. Birds that can fly hundreds or even thousands of miles, birds that often show no signs of the disease they are carrying. That’s sounds sensible….not.

What’s even more interesting is that the government looked at the possibility of selling the island as a means of helping reduce the US national debt. The value of the island was estimated to be in the region of  $80,000,000 – $150,000,000. On looking closely at the plan it was decided that the CLEAN UP costs would be so high that selling the island would raise barely any money at all and the idea was scrapped in February 2012.

If a facility is run well, with the guidelines adhered to diligently what in Gods name could possibly cost more  than $80,000,000 to clean up?

Take care


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Contributed by Lizzie Bennett of Underground Medic.

Lizzie Bennett retired from her job as a senior operating department practitioner in the UK earlier this year. Her field was trauma and accident and emergency and she has served on major catastrophe teams around the UK. Lizzie publishes Underground Medic on the topic of preparedness.

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