NBAF preparing for a soft opening


The National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility in Manhattan is preparing for a soft opening.

Dr. Ken Burton, NBAF Coordinator, says the construction of the facility has been a long process- from an original plan in 2012 and a delay in 2020, to a  soft opening of the facility in 2021. Dr. Burton says he is excited to see all of the planning finally come into effect.

“On April 24th our USDA personnel will begin to operate the central utility plant, the wastewater pre-treatment plant. the security contract, and then our IT team is in getting everything ready for our personnel to move in for the soft opening,” Dr. Burton says.

Dr. Burton says USDA essential personnel have been working at the facility on a daily basis, shadowing the current operators to prepare for the soft opening. He says the communication team was also in the facility this past week to hang signage relating to COVID-19 awareness and precautions. He adds that looking ahead is a big focus for them.

“We continue to have discussions with DHS to identify additional areas that USDA might be able to move into over the next several months so that we get a little bit of a head start in preparation for substantial completion and the final commissioning for NBAF.” he says.

Once fully operational, NBAF will be the only facility in the United States where large animals infected with the highest risk of infectious agents can be housed and handled. Diana Whipple, ARS NBAF Transition Coordinator, adds that the facility is also the nation’s only large animal bio-safety level 4 facility that is built to handle pathogens that do not currently have treatments or countermeasures. She says safety is a priority and there will be regulatory oversight of the work done at NBAF to ensure that it is done safely and securely.

“USDA and NBAF leadership have established a culture of safety and security at NBAF, and that’s laying an important foundation as we stand up the operations in the scientific program. So, I see that priority and emphasis on the safety and security of those programs, not only within NBAF, but for Manhattan and the surrounding communities,” Whipple says.

The facility is set to be fully operational in December of 2022.

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