SPOKANE, Wash.—Extra money will keep the Eastern Washington’s bioterrorism laboratory open past July.
Health officials voted in May to extend funding for the bioterrorism laboratory for another six months. The lab was originally set to close July 1 due to a lack of money.
The Spokane Regional Health District’s Board of Health voted to use money from its general fund to keep the laboratory open while it continues to search for long-term funding. The Board of Health said the lab will close in December of 2014 if long-term funding is not secured.
Federal grants kept the operations running since it opened in 2003. Health district leaders said funding for the lab, which cost about $160,000 annually, began to dwindle in 2011 until it ran out.
The lab needed to find alternative funding or else it would close. The threat for closure was hanging over the lab in 2013 but the State was able to keep them afloat for an additional year.
Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich asked the County to contribute $50,000 of the $150,000 needed to keep the lab open. He hoped officials in Spokane Valley and the City of Spokane would also give $50,000.
Eastern Washington’s bioterrorism lab tested environmental and clinical samples for threatening substances including plague and infections diseases, as well as letters containing ricin. Staff from the lab also tested powder from the backpack involved in the Martin Luther King, Jr. parade incident in 2011.
Leaders from the SRHD said being able to test samples locally allows a more rapid response. Without the laboratory, certain samples would have to be sent to the Washington State Public Health Laboratory in Shoreline, WA.
The Board of Health said if the laboratory were to close, it would stay closed because of the capitol costs to reopen it.