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CDC lab suffers power outage

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  • CDC lab suffers power outage

    CDC lab containing deadly virus suffers power outage

    Published on: 07/12/08
    A laboratory building that contains a deadly strain of avian flu and other germs is among four that lost power for more than an hour Friday when a backup generator system failed again at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
    The outage affected air flow systems in labs that help contain such germs as the H5N1 flu virus, which some experts fear could cause a pandemic. But there were no exposures to infectious agents, and neither workers nor the public were at any risk, said CDC spokesman Tom Skinner.
    <!--endtext--><!--endclickprintinclude--><TABLE cellSpacing=0 cellPadding=2 width=175 align=left border=0><TBODY><TR><TD><TABLE cellSpacing=0 cellPadding=1 width=170 bgColor=#cccccc border=0><TBODY><TR><TD><TABLE cellSpacing=0 cellPadding=9 width=168 bgColor=#ffffff border=0><TBODY><TR><TD class=body>Recent lab Incidents
    May 18, 2007: Blasting of granite by a CDC construction contractor sent rock flying, shattering two exterior windows in Building 15, including one on a floor 150 feet away from a maximum-containment Biosafety Level 4 (BSL-4) lab that work with deadly germs such as Ebola. Rocks also damaged windows at Building 17, about 50 feet away from a high-containment Biosafety Level 3 (BSL-3) lab.

    May 25, 2007: Nine workers were tested for possible exposure to Q fever, a bioterror agent, after a ventilation system in Building 18 malfunctioned and pulled potentially contaminated air into a "clean" corridor. Nobody was infected. Duct tape now seals the Q fever BSL-3 lab door in what CDC says is an added precaution until a new door is installed.

    June 15, 2007: A lightning strike knocked out power for an hour at Building 18; backup generators did not come on. Nearby construction work had damaged a key component of the building's grounding system.

    Dec. 8, 2007: During a planned evacuation drill of Building 18's labs that was designed to simulate a power outage, emergency lights initially came on but failed after 10 minutes when a technician inadvertently shut off a back-up power system, according to a CDC after-action report obtained by the AJC.

    Dec. 18, 2007: Building 18 had a real evacuation after its new medical waste incinerator was started for a test and vented smoke into the high-containment lab area. Excessive heat caused the incinerator's bypass stack to tear away from its anchor bolts, internal records show.

    Friday: A bird caused a Georgia Power transformer to fail, knocking out power to part of the CDC campus for about 1 hour 15 minutes. Then CDC's backup generators failed to keep power on at four buildings: the infectious disease lab Building 17, and offices in Buildings 1, 3 and 20.

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    The outage is the latest in a string of mechanical and construction incidents at labs on the agency's Clifton Road campus — many in new buildings that are part of a $1 billion construction plan.
    Last summer, an hour-long power outage at a different CDC lab tower, called Building 18, resulted in a congressional hearing. The Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, is still examining safety at CDC's high-containment laboratories and concerns raised years ago by agency engineers that CDC's backup power system was likely to fail.
    "It's important for people to understand that even though we lose power to these facilities from time to time, worker safety and the public's safety is not in jeopardy because multiple, redundant systems are in place, separate from those that rely on power," Skinner said Saturday.
    Around 5:40 p.m. Friday, a Georgia Power transformer failed, cutting off electricity to part of the CDC campus. CDC's backup generators initially came on, Skinner said. But then the system detected some sort of power anomaly and shut itself off, cutting off backup power to three buildings, he said.
    The buildings affected were:
    • Building 17, a newer infectious disease research lab building, where scientists work with rabies, HIV, influenza and tuberculosis, including extensively drug-resistant strains. The building has Biosafety Level 3 (BSL-3) labs, which need electricity to maintain negative airflow. This key safeguard helps contain germs by making sure air is always being drawn into the lab and through special HEPA filters before leaving the building. When power is lost, the lab has neutral air that neither flows in or out.
    • Building 20, a newer office building that also houses the agency's fitness center.
    • Building 1 and Building 3, antiquated attached office buildings from about 1959.
    Information about whether any labs were in use at the time of the outage was not immediately available Saturday, Skinner said.
    "This happened late in the day and there were not many employees still in the buildings," Skinner said. "Those in the buildings evacuated without incident."
    The power was out for about 1 hour 15 minutes, Skinner said, and was restored when Georgia Power fixed the transformer problem.
    A bird caused the blown Georgia Power transformer, said power company spokesman Jeff Wilson.
    CDC officials did not attempt to override and restart the agency's backup generators because they didn't know what the anomaly was that shut them down, Skinner said.
    Skinner also said there was no power disruption at Building 18, the $214 million Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratory that suffered the hour-long outage last summer.
    The AJC reported last summer that government construction engineers had warned since 2001 that CDC's planned design for its centralized backup power generation system would not keep crucial lab systems from failing in an outage.
    "I've been saying this for over three years now, but having the generators in this configuration gives us no protection whatsoever from many types of failures," CDC mechanical engineer Johnnie West wrote in an August 2003 e-mail to agency officials, one of several reviewed by the AJC.
    CDC officials have said that despite West's concerns, the consensus of experts was that a centralized generator farm was better than having individual units at buildings.
    Skinner emphasized that the CDC has many other physical barriers to contain germs that don't require electricity. They include safety cabinets and layers of rooms, filters and corridors between the germs and the outdoors.
    "I think people need to know we're talking about an enormous campus with complex systems, and we're never going to be able to fully eliminate power outages," Skinner said. "That's impossible. The key for us is to minimize the duration of the outage."

  • #2
    Re: CDC lab suffers power outage

    "... we're never going to be able to fully eliminate power outages," Skinner said. "That's impossible."

    No, it's only money.

    If you count 100&#37; ok, but if you are satisfied with 99,9xxx...% than,
    duplicate the biohazard energy paths/boxes, put 2 or 3 backup generators instead of one (all in reserve-mode) with enaugh fuel, and than there will be no power outages ("beyond the reasonable doubt"; "big ones", and "H", apart ...).

    If that's not enaugh remains the solar energy panels ...