Cuomo Calls for Further Study of Plum Island

Oct 1, 2013

The Plum Island Animal Disease Center in 2007.
Credit Joelmills / Wikimedia Commons

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said Monday that questions about the environmental condition of Plum Island need further study before the federal government proceeds with its sale. The island, off eastern Long Island, has been home to a federal research facility that studies infectious diseases that could threaten the nation’s livestock industry.

“Over the past three years," Cuomo said, "New York State has raised the issue of potentially serious environmental issues at the federal government’s Animal Disease Center on Plum Island that have not been fully addressed. Before the sale of Plum Island can continue, Washington must step up and sign a legally binding consent order spelling out its full plan for cleaning up the island and giving the state oversight authority to make sure the work has been done properly. For the safety of Long Islanders, we cannot let this Island be sold without the animal disease center and surrounding area being subjected to a full inspection and cleanup.”

On Monday, Cuomo sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and General Services Administration, calling on both agencies to submit to a consent order requiring them to present a comprehensive environmental cleanup plan for Plum Island in Suffolk County. Cuomo also wants New York to have a final review of the island’s conditions before it is put up for sale.

Congress voted in 2009 to close the aging lab and move the operations to Kansas. Federal lawmakers want to sell the island to defray the costs. The General Services Administration is overseeing the sale. In an environmental review released earlier this year, the GSA suggested the possibility of residential development on Plum Island. 

Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal also opposes the sale. He said he’d like to see the island transferred to either an agency, a local government, or a non-profit that would protect its environmental integrity.