Lack of funding to close Spokane County's bioterrorism lab



Posted on May 14, 2014 at 4:49 PM

Updated Wednesday, May 14 at 6:41 PM

SPOKANE, Wash.--Spokane County’s Bioterrorism Lab that handled chemicals and threats was set to close on July 1 unless it received funding to stay open.

State officials said they did not have money to keep the lab running. The facility handled around 70 cases since 2004. The nearest alternative to the lab was nearly five hours away from Spokane.

The lab handled cases such as the Spokane ricin case in 2013 and a backpack bomb recovered at the Martin Luther King Junior parade in 2011.

READ: Extra police presence seen on anniversary of backpack bomb

Employees with the lab said they were able to positively ID ricin samples in about four hours. That was shorter than the amount of time it would take to drive across the state to an alternative lab.

READ: May trial set for local ricin suspect

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.

“This is a vital piece of fabric for the community as far as public safety,” said Sheriff Knezovich.

Lab employees agreed and hoped a resolution could be found before the clock ticked away to July.

The lab would stay open for another year if they received $150,000.