Thursday, April 29, 2010


Below is the testimony of Jordan Barab, OSHA Deputy Assistant Secretary regarding strengthening OSHA law by PAWA, Protecting America’s Workers Act. His testimony on April 28, 2010 was before the subcommittee on Workforce Protections and the Committee on Education and Labor U.S.. House of Representatives April 28, 2010
Chair Woolsey, Ranking Member McMorris Rodgers and Members of the Subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to testify today on the Protecting America’s Workers Act (PAWA) particularly on the issues of whistleblower protections and victim’s rights in OSHA’s enforcement process.

I recognize the significance of today’s hearing being held on both the 39th anniversary of the creation of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and Workers Memorial Day. Today is the day set aside to recognize workers killed, disabled, injured or sickened by their work – to honor the men and women who have died on the job and to rededicate ourselves to improving safety and health in every American workplace.

This commitment is especially needed now, as we commemorate this Workers Memorial Day not only to remember the 29 brave miners who lost their lives at the Upper Big Branch mine, the 7 refinery workers who were killed the week before at the Tesoro refinery in Washington, but also the 14 workers who die on the job every day in this country.

This hearing focuses on two areas that are crucial to reaching the goal set by the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) to assure safe and healthful working conditions for all working men and women in the United States: 1) ensuring that workers are safe from retaliation for exercising their health and safety rights; and 2) ensuring victims of workplace incidents and their family members have information and a meaningful role in OSHA enforcement activities.

Whistleblower Protections

Congress realized that OSHA inspectors would never be able to visit more than a small fraction of the nation’s workplaces. The OSH Act therefore relies heavily on workers to help identify hazards at their workplaces. The authors of the OSH Act also realized that employees are not likely to participate in safety and health activities if they fear that they will lose their jobs or otherwise be retaliated against. That is why Congress wrote Section 11(c) -- to protect employees from discrimination and retaliation when they report safety and health hazards or exercise other rights under the OSH Act. The OSH Act was one of the first safety and health laws to contain a provision for protecting whistleblowers.

Section 11(c) was innovative and forward looking in 1970, but 40 years later it is clearly antiquated and in dire need of substantial improvement. Achieving Secretary Solis’ goal of Good Jobs for Everyone includes strengthening workers’ voices in their workplaces. Without robust whistleblower protections, these voices may be silenced.
This Administration strongly supports the whistleblower provisions of the Protecting America’s Workers Act (PAWA), which expands the OSH Act’s anti-retaliation provisions, codifies a worker’s right to refuse to perform unsafe work, prohibits employer policies that discourage workers from reporting illnesses or injuries, prohibits employer retaliation against employees for reporting injuries or illnesses, and grants workers the right to further pursue their case if OSHA does not proceed in a timely fashion.

OSHA currently administers the whistleblower provisions of sixteen other statutes, protecting employees who report violations of various trucking, airline, nuclear power, pipeline, environmental, rail, consumer product, and securities laws. In the four decades since the OSH Act became law, Congress has enacted increasingly expansive whistleblower protections in these other laws, leaving section 11(c) of the OSH Act in significant ways the least protective of the 17 whistleblower statutes. It is time to bring OSHA’s protections up to the same level of these other laws.

Notable weaknesses in section 11(c) include: inadequate time for employees to file complaints; lack of an administrative forum for the adjudication of cases; lack of a statutory right of appeal; lack of a private right of action; and OSHA’s lack of authority to issue findings and preliminary orders, so that a complainant’s only chance to prevail is through the Department of Labor filing an action in U.S. District Court.

PAWA would strengthen section 11(c) by including the full range of procedures and remedies available under the more modern statutes and by codifying certain provisions, such as exemplary damages and the right to refuse work that could result in serious injury or illness, which have been available but not expressly authorized by current statute. There is no reason that workers speaking up about threats to their safety and health should enjoy less protection than workers speaking up about securities fraud or transportation hazards. PAWA would also make explicit that a worker may not be retaliated against for reporting injuries, illnesses or unsafe conditions to employers or to a safety and health committee. This protection is already implicit in the OSH Act, but PAWA would leave no doubt in employers’ or employees’ minds about this right.

PAWA is an improvement on OSHA’s current law in significant ways. It would increase the existing 30-day deadline for filing an 11(c) complaint to 180 days, bringing 11(c) more in line with some of the other whistleblower statutes. Over the years many complainants who might otherwise have had a strong case of retaliation have been denied protection simply because they did not file within the 30-day deadline. For example, we received an 11(c) complaint from a former textile employee who claimed to have been fired for reporting to management that he had become ill due to smoke exposure during the production process. The worker contacted OSHA to file an 11(c) complaint 62 days after he was fired, compelling OSHA to dismiss the case as untimely under existing law. Under PAWA, however, OSHA would be able to investigate the merits of cases such as this one. Increasing the filing deadline to 180 days would greatly increase the protections afforded by section 11(c).

PAWA’s adoption of the “contributing factor” test for determining when illegal retaliation has occurred would be another significant improvement in 11(c). This test, which examines the employer’s decision to take adverse action against the employee following whistleblower activity, is less stringent than the current “motivating factor” test to which OSHA is currently restricted. Adoption of the “contributing factor” test would make 11(c) consistent with other more recently enacted whistleblower statutes and would strengthen the whistleblower protections afforded to America’s workers.

The private right of action is another key element of whistleblower protections that is lacking in OSHA’s current 11(c) provision and is contained in PAWA. It is critically important that, if an employer fails to comply with an order providing relief, both DOL and the complainant should be able to file a civil action for enforcement of that order in a U.S. District Court. We strongly support this provision.

PAWA also allows complainants to move their case to another prescribed venue if the Department does not make prompt decisions or rulings. For example, PAWA would allow complainants to “kick out” from an OSHA investigation to a de novo Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) hearing if the Secretary has not issued a decision within 120 days from the case filing; “kick out” from an ALJ hearing to district court if an ALJ has not issued a decision within 90 days of the request for a hearing; or “kick out” from an Administrative Review Board (ARB) hearing to district court if the ARB has not issued a final order within 60 days of the request for an administrative appeal. “Kick-out” provisions have become a standard feature of whistleblower protection statutes, and OSHA believes it is appropriate for 11(c) complainants to have the same right.

The provision in PAWA allowing employees in states administering OSHA-approved plans to choose between Federal and State whistleblower investigations would likely result in a significant increase in the number of Federal complaints. All 22 states and territories that administer private sector plans are required to provide protections at least as effective as Federal OSHA’s. We have some reservations about this provision because we are not convinced it would add much protection to workers in those states and it would be a significant drain on OSHA and Solicitor resources. We would welcome further discussions on how to best ensure whistleblower protections in these states.

Finally, PAWA would codify a number of OSHA’s high standards for professionalism and transparency in conducting whistleblower investigations that are of critical importance to this Administration. For example, PAWA requires OSHA to interview complainants and to provide them with the respondent’s response and the evidence supporting the respondent’s position. PAWA affords complainants the opportunity to meet with OSHA and to rebut the employer’s statements or evidence. While we train our investigators on the critical importance of conducting thorough interviews with complainants and involving complainants in the rigorous testing of proffered employer defenses, we believe that requiring these investigative steps by statute would assist OSHA in its mission of providing robust protection to occupational safety and health whistleblowers.

These legislative changes in the whistleblower provisions are a long-overdue response to weaknesses that have become apparent over the past four decades. This legislation makes good on the promise to stand by those workers who have the courage to come forward when they know their employer is cutting corners on safety and health and guarantees that they do not have to sacrifice their jobs in order to do the right thing.

Not only do we support the provisions of PAWA intended to improve whistleblower protections, we would like to explore areas where we might want to go further.

I would propose amending the OSH Act to provide for assessment of civil penalties against employers who violate the whistleblower provisions. Currently, while an employer found to be discriminating against an employee must make the employee whole again, there is no provision for civil penalties against employers. The provisions are not in the current version of PAWA but similar provisions were included in the S-MINER Act that was passed by this Committee and the full House of Representatives in 2008. Under such a provision, any employer found to be in violation of Section 11(c) of the Act would be subject to civil penalties of not less than $10,000 and not more than $100,000 for each occurrence of a violation.

Additionally, as conclusion of these cases can often take many months, a provision should be made to reinstate the complainant pending outcome of the case. The Mine Safety and Health Act provides that in cases when the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) determines that an employee’s complaint was not frivolously brought, the Review Commission can order immediate reinstatement of the miner pending final order on the complaint. OSHA’s 11(c) complainants should have the same reinstatement rights.

Victims’ Rights

OSHA has long known that workers, and often their families, can serve as OSHA’s “eyes and ears,” identifying workplace hazards. Workers injured in workplace incidents and their friends and family often provide useful information to investigators, because employees frequently discuss work activities and co-workers with family members during non-work hours. We are dedicated to findings ways to involve workers and their families in OSHA’s enforcement investigations. Both Assistant Secretary Michaels and I make it a priority to set time aside to talk with victims’ families whenever we have the opportunity.

Last month, as part of an effort to reach out and hear from stakeholders on a variety of safety and health issues, we hosted “OSHA Listens.” As part of the event, we heard recommendations from the family members of workers killed on the job on how to enhance victims’ and families’ participation in the enforcement process.

I want to thank Tonya Ford whose uncle, Robert Fitch, was killed at Archer Daniels Midland on January 29, 2009, for coming to Washington today to testify and describe to us the tragic circumstances of Mr. Fitch’s death and the unnecessary problems she and her family faced getting information about what happened and what OSHA was doing. We appreciate the suggestions she has on how to improve our enforcement process and better involve victims and their families.

Katherine Rodriguez, whose father was killed at the BP Texas City Refinery on September 2, 2004, also spoke at OSHA Listens and made several recommendations to OSHA officials on how to enhance the rights of victims’ families. She said that before her father died in the hospital her family received information about the incident that might have been useful to OSHA investigators, noting that “fellow coworkers are more willing to talk to the family members than any investigator.”

Family members and co-workers are sincerely and understandably interested in learning how an incident occurred, finding out if anything could have been done to prevent it, and knowing what steps employers and employees will take in the future to ensure that someone else is not injured or killed in a similar situation.

It is OSHA’s policy to talk to families during the investigation process and inform them about our citation procedures and settlements. OSHA first contacts the family at the beginning of the inspection. All families get a letter from the Area Director discussing the process and advising that they will be kept informed. In some cases the families initially get a phone call. Families are then normally provided a copy of the citations when issued.

However, we have found that some of these policies have not always been implemented consistently and in a timely manner. It is also clear that a letter is not adequate. Therefore, we will be putting these policies into a directive and adding them to our Field Operations Manual. We will also be instructing the Area Directors to call the family to express condolences, advise that a letter is coming, and assure families we will be staying in contact.

In addition, we need to work on interacting with families following a tragedy. As might be expected, many OSHA inspectors understandably have trouble knowing how to interact with a person who has just lost a loved one in tragic circumstances. While brief training on this issue is provided to Compliance Officers at the Initial Compliance Course at the OSHA Training Institute, clearly more training is needed and will be developed. We will also develop webinars and webcasts for training of all compliance officers, team leaders, and Area Directors.

In general, OSHA is supportive of expanding interactions with families and victims. Therefore, the Agency is examining the issue of victims’ rights from the administrative level to seek ways to better ensure the rights of victims and their families to participate in OSHA’s enforcement efforts. OSHA supports many of the changes to the OSH Act embodied in PAWA for victims and their families.

PAWA would place into law, for the first time, the right of a victim (injured employee or family member) to meet with OSHA regarding the investigation and to receive copies of the citation or resulting report at the same time as the employer at no cost. PAWA would also enable victims to be informed of any notice of contest and to make a statement before an agreement is made to withdraw or modify a citation.

However, we also want to ensure – and I think the families would also want to ensure – that the provisions of PAWA do not unduly slow down the inspection, enforcement and adjudication process, which only hurt victims and their families in the long run. We believe therefore that clarification is needed of the provisions allowing victims or their representatives to meet in person with OSHA before the agency decides whether to issue a citation, or the right to appear before parties conducting settlement negotiations. This could be logistically difficult for victims and OSHA’s regional and area offices, resulting in significant delays in the negotiations and ultimate citation. OSHA would be happy to work with the Committee to address this issue.

Madam Chair, I appreciate the opportunity to appear today to discuss PAWA and how it would improve whistleblower protections and victim’s rights. I believe stronger whistleblower protections and more substantial rights for victims and their families can lead to safer jobsites and ultimately, more men and women who go safely home to their families at the end of the day. I would be happy to answer your questions.


Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Worker’s Memorial Day, a Day to Fight for the Living

Worker’s Memorial Day, a Day to Fight for the Living
By Becky A. McClain, April 27, 2010

On April 28th people around the globe gather to commemorate Worker’s Memorial Day. It is a day to remember those who lost their lives at work, but also a day to fight for the living, to continue to advocate for injured workers, to advocate for safe work environments and to protect public health and safety.

I am Becky McClain, a career scientist, a whistleblower, and an injured biotech worker who acquired an illness after a work-related exposure to a genetically engineered virus at Pfizer

My case is unique in some ways and not so unique in others.

It is not unique in ways where history seems to whisper her stories. …Stories told where corporations can often prioritized “bottom lines” over workplace safety. …Stories that tell a tale about workers being intimidated to raise safety issues for fear of losing their job or position, and where workers must work in unsafe work conditions. …and stories about injured workers who are subsequently terminated, abandoned and ill, with no place to turn.

But my case is unique in other ways. Most notably because it involves the world of recombinant DNA, a world where new genetically engineered infectious agents are being created almost every day in our neighborhood university research labs and private biotech and pharmaceutical companies throughout the United States. It is unique because unsafe laboratory practices can not only harm workers, but also could impact the public’s health by creating new emerging disease and new chronic illness.

Dangerous public health and safety-related issues in the biotech field are real, not only relating to my story, but also, for others around the country. This past year Dr. Malcolm Casadaban, a Professor of Molecular Genetics from the Univ. of Chicago died after a work-acquired infection to Yersinia pestis, the bacteria linked to the plague, a bacterium that had been laboratory-attenuated, disabling its ability to cause disease. Unfortunately, that latter fact turned out to be unknowingly wrong. Dr. Casadaban’s death brings to light the unprecedented dangers which biotech workers face and which the public should be made aware.

Dangers in the biotech field have personally impacted me also. Consequently, for the past six years I have been fighting work-related legal battles for my health and to advocate for public health and safety. Through these struggles, I have learned that the biotech industry holds very little protections for workers. For example, biologists have no legal rights to have safety issues addressed formally at work, even if issues are of a public concern. In addition, biotech workers who are inadvertently exposed to genetically engineered infectious agents at work, have no healthcare rights and no legal remedy for an illness which may subsequently develop.

So although I am overjoyed to have recently won a federal lawsuit against Pfizer in violation of my whistleblower rights and my free speech for public health and safety, I am disappointed and concerned to still have no legal remedy regarding Pfizer’s failure to provide the appropriate exposure records necessary for my healthcare, even after doctors’ requests.

And what is most concerning is that no other worker has these rights either.

In fact, OSHA has established a ruling in my case that “trade secrets” supersede a worker’s right to obtain appropriate exposure records upon a biological exposure….records, I may add, that are necessary for directed healthcare.

This is a terrible situation and provides a horrific precedent for all biotech workers and other workers exposed to any type of biological agent while at work. Not only does this ruling increase the likelihood that injured biotech workers will not receive directed medical care, but it also helps conceal the actual work-related biotech injuries from the public’s eye. In addition, since workers could possibly become infectious through an exposure at work, it raises serious public health and safety issues.

I personally would never have imagined that this type of worker rights issue and human rights issue would have even been possible in America.

These issues provide glaring examples where we must fight for the living. Workers who incur a biological exposure should have the right to obtain full disclosure of the exposure information necessary for directed healthcare. And companies, like Pfizer, who do not disclose or keep adequate exposure records on infectious agents they create, should be severely penalized. In addition, scientists should have legal rights and a formal structure to address health and safety issues on the job. Finally, our broken Worker Compensation system leaves many injured workers destitute and abandoned. It needs to be revamped and strengthened to provide timely and appropriate healthcare for all injured workers, including those who acquire illness. These initiatives, to fight for the living, not only provide for a safe work environment, but also, protect and benefit the public.

Today on Worker’s Memorial Day we reflect on all of those who have lost their lives at work this past year, Perhaps, we should especially remember the most recent tragedies in the United States: the 5 men who died during the Middletown Kleen Energy explosion in Connecticut, the 29 miners who lost their lives at the Massey West Virginia Coal Mine Explosion, as well as, the 11 men who lost their lives at the oil rig explosion off the coast of Louisiana. These deaths, along with the numerous serious injuries, reflect how catastrophic it can be when unsafe work conditions are ignored.

But let us not forget on this Worker’s Memorial Day also, those nameless souls who have died through work-related illness, abandoned because of no laws or legal protections. We should moreover bear in mind on this day, those currently struggling with work-related illness or injuries who suffer the same abandonment. May these men and women be also remembered in our prayers and provide a reason to fight for the living.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Laboratory Safety at RISK

by Rita Uplend on April 20, 2010

Army investigators have recommended laboratory safety procedures at Fort Detrick be reviewed after finding lapses following the infection of a biodefense worker with tularemia.
The infected woman survived the tularemia infection, which is a potentially fatal respiratory disease, following a brief hospitalization at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in December.The U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, in an executive summary of an internal investigation, said that the unidentified woman probably inhaled the tularemia bacteria between November 13 and November 17.Investigators could not pinpoint one significant event, such as a spill or dropped flask, but noted several lapses in proper laboratory techniques that, when combined, may have increased the woman's risk of exposure.Among the lapses cited in the report was potentially contaminated waste that wasn't placed in a cabinet designed to contain bacteria. The waste was instead deposited in a waste container inside the sealed laboratory suite.The woman, who had not taken part in a voluntary immunization with an experimental tularemia vaccine, wasn't wearing a battery-powered device that delivers filtered air into a plastic hood, which is required.
The woman instead wore a half-face filter respirator, which had been deemed sufficient as blood tests showed the woman had developed antibodies to tularemia.The worker also was not clear on proper procedures for illness reporting and did not immediately report her symptoms. When her symptoms were finally reported, the woman did not immediately notify the institute's Special Immunization Clinic for an evaluation to determine if her illness was work-related.Among the report's recommendations are a call for a review of standard lab procedures for working with tularemia, a re-evaluation of vaccination policies and the use of personal protective gear for tularemia, and the formulation of an official policy for reporting illnesses and monitoring employee absences.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Worker's Memorial Day__Scientists

DEATH ON THE JOB: list of some Scientists who died on the job



Annie Le, 24-A doctoral student found buried in a wall at the Yale Stem Cell Center, New Haven, Sept. 8, 2009
Malcolm Casadaban, 60--Prof of Molecular Genetics, vaccine researcher who died from laboratory exposure to Yersinia pestis, the PLAGUE at Univ. of Chicago/ Sept. 13, 2009
Sheharbano Sangii, 23-died of burns when working with t-butyl lithium at UCLA, Jan 2009


Here is an chronological list of dead scientists:

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

FIRM questions Pfizer's Misconduct

See the post below written by Dr. Roy M. Poses, MD who is President of the Foundation for Integrity and Responsibility in Medicine (FIRM) regarding the business ethics of Pfizer. Poses raises the question of why corporate misconduct is not being addressed appropriately.

Also see link to FIRM's website, an educational non-profit which supports physician core values and advocates ethical health care governance:

OSHA GONE BAD--Workers Suffer

Workers At Risk: Regulatory Disfunction At OSHA

Please click the link above for an EXCELLENT white paper on an analysis of disfunction at OSHA by CPR Member Scholars Thomas McGarity, Rena Steinzor, and Sidney Shapiro, and CPR Policy Analyst Matthew Shudtz

Friday, April 9, 2010

Safety Lapses with Infected Biotech Worker at Defense Lab

Apr 6, 2010 6:26 pm US/Eastern
Army Finds Safety Lapses In Lab Infection Case

DAVID DISHNEAU, Associated Press Writer

HAGERSTOWN, Md. (AP) ― Army investigators at Fort Detrick recommended on Tueday that some laboratory safety procedures be reviewed after finding lapses in the case of a biodefense worker who became infected with tularemia, a potentially fatal respiratory disease.The woman survived the infection after a brief hospitalization at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in December.In an executive summary of an internal investigation, the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases said the unidentified woman probably inhaled the bacteria between Nov. 13 and Nov. 17.Although there was no significant event investigators could point to, such as a spill or dropped flask, they cited several lapses in proper laboratory techniques that, taken together, may have increased her risk of exposure.The report said potentially contaminated waste wasn't placed in a cabinet designed to contain bacteria. Instead, it was deposited in a waste container inside the sealed laboratory suite.Even though she hadn't been voluntarily immunized with an experimental tularemia vaccine, the woman wasn't wearing a battery-powered device that delivers filtered air into a plastic hood, as required. Instead, she wore a half-face filter respirator. The less-protective device apparently was deemed sufficient because a blood test indicated she had developed antibodies to tularemia, perhaps due to a natural exposure in the past.The worker wasn't clear on the proper procedures for illness reporting, investigators found. She didn't immediately report her symptoms and when she did, on Nov. 23, she failed to immediately notify a second office, the institute's Special Immunizations Clinic, for an evaluation to determine if the illness could be work-related. She finally reported to the clinic on Dec. 1.The report's recommendations include a review of standard laboratory procedures for working with tularemia; a re-evaluation of policies for vaccination and the use of personal protective gear for tularemia; and formulation of an official policy for reporting illnesses and monitoring employee absences.
(© 2010 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Private Biowarfare

Posted on April 7, 2010 by Terres from Fundamental Human Rights

Dangerous Biological Testing Lab in Connecticut

New Public Health Laboratory Approved By Bond Commission; Union Dispute Over Who Will Build It
By Christopher Keating on April 7, 2010 12:34 PM
In a continuing political battle, the State Bond Commission approved a new, $70 million public health laboratory that has drawn sharp opposition from the surrounding Rocky Hill neighbors.
The 7 to 3 vote Wednesday came after a similar vote last month had failed on a 5 - 5 tie as all five Democrats on the commission banded together after saying that the neighbors had not had enough time to analyze the plans.
The state-of-the-art facility would allow for testing for anthrax and other biohazardous materials, which has raised fears among the neighbors. The lab will be a replacement for the deteriorating, 45-year-old lab in Hartford, which is within walking distance of the state Capitol, the Bushnell theatre, the state office building on Capitol Avenue, and Bushnell Park. Thousands of people walk and work near the currrent laboratory on a daily basis, and many are not aware of its location in a non-descript building near the state DEP headquarters.
Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell said previously that many of the concerns about the facility were actually related to a union battle over whether non-union contractors would be building the $70 million complex. One of the chief opponents of the laboratory is Shaun Cashman, a high-ranking union official who once served as the state labor commissioner under then-Gov. John G. Rowland.
State officials were surprised when Cashman recently showed up at a private meeting about the laboratory plans with two Democrats - Sen. Paul Doyle of Wethersfield and Rep. Tony Guerrera of Rocky Hill. Cashman attended the bond commission meeting Wednesday and often looked back at Doyle and Guerrera, who were standing in the back of the room.
When asked after the vote whether the dispute is over union issues, Cashman said, "I'm just looking for safety. I have no other issue beyond that.''
He then walked away from a reporter.
More than 30 different contractors are recommended to work on the project, including about a dozen with contracts for at least $1 million. Some of the biggest contractors on the list are Tucker Mechanical, Pioneer Valley Concrete, United Steel, S. G. Milazzo & Co., Ductco Inc., Gibson Associates, Electrical Contractors Inc., and Simscroft-Echo Farms, Inc. of Simsbury. Other contractors are Century Drywall Inc., WDJ Construction, CT Mason Contractors Inc., Gold Seal Roofing & Sheetmetal Inc., and Suntech of CT, Inc.
The three Democrats who voted against the laboratory were Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, state Comptroller Nancy Wyman and state Rep. David McCluskey of West Hartford. Sen. Eileen Daily, a moderate Democrat and key swing voter on the bond commission, changed her vote from last month and supported the laboratory on Wednesday. She told Capitol Watch that her concerns had been answered.
After the original vote last month, Rell told reporters that she was angry and frustrated by the process. She said the plans had been in the works for five years and were well known to town officials in Rocky Hill.
Rell's aides distributed a timeline and lengthy details about the plan to show that Rocky Hill officials had been aware of the proposal for years.
The lab is a critical component of the state's public health mission. Scientists at the current lab test for West Nile virus, childhood lead poisoning, rabies, and drinking water contamination, among other public health concerns.
The issue over the Rocky Hill location flared up when a group known as Construction Workers For A Safe Environment started distributing fliers to Rocky Hill residents with the statement that the materials at the new lab "may cause serious or potentially lethal disease as a result of exposure by the inhalation route."
Stanley Einhorn, a Rocky Hill resident who found a flier on his doorstep last week, said last month that everyone on his street got the flier, which says the Rocky Hill laboratory would be at the same level as the notorious laboratory at Plum Island, N.Y., in Long Island Sound. But Rocky Hill's, like the lab it would replace, would be a Level 3 laboratory, while Plum Island is a Level 4 facility.
"It's not as bad as Plum Island, but there are contagious things there," Einhorn said. "I definitely think it's a bad idea. ... There's a lot of potential problems."
Doyle, the state senator who sought a postponement of the bond commission vote, said last month that the brochure was "inflammatory" and "dead wrong" in certain aspects regarding the state's plans.
"This facility has no live animals. It's not like they're testing live animals like at Plum Island," Doyle said. "There's a lot of misstatements in here. You can't get near Plum Island. There's 100 percent security."
Doyle rejected the notion that the dispute was about union construction jobs, saying that the issue never came up during the one-hour meeting with public health commissioner Robert Galvin and other state health department officials at the state Capitol complex.
"I don't know any of those [union] issues because Cashman didn't tell me any of that," Doyle said last month. "The motives of Cashman are irrelevant. ... In the meeting, there was nothing about unions. It was all science."
The new laboratory, which is scheduled to be built on 22 acres near the State Veterans Home and across the street from Dinosaur State Park, would replace the current lab at 10 Clinton St. in a densely packed, congested area of downtown Hartford.
Because of the weak economy and the heavy competition among contractors for construction jobs, the state had received a bid that was $12 million less than expected.
Galvin, the public health commissioner, has described the current lab in Hartford as antiquated and said its plumbing, heating and air-conditioning systems are deficient. On hot days in the summer, staff members must put containers of ice on top of specimen coolers to ensure that the samples are kept cold enough, he said.
Galvin told the bond commission last month that the lab has no experimental animals and that it's never had trouble containing organisms it is testing.
A construction contractor has offered a price that would cut $12 million off the overall cost, and that offer expires April 15, Galvin said.