A lab aimed at fighting bioterrorism may open in Allegheny County within the next few weeks. The Bio-Safety Level 3 lab will be the second in Pennsylvania that can test for hazardous agents like anthrax. In 2002, then-Governor Mark Schweiker decided to create the lab in order to serve as a backup to one in Chester County. That lab had been overwhelmed in late 2001, when law enforcement officials submitted more than 1,500 samples for anthrax testing. Allegheny County Health Department Director Bruce Dixon says this kind of lab could also help in the diagnosis of illnesses like swine flu.
Construction of the new lab was mostly finished by the end of 2007, but the project was delayed because of ventilation and other problems. Dixon says that's to be expected, because the science that goes into creating this kind of facility is complex. Later this month, federal officials will visit the most secure portion of the lab to make sure it meets environmental and health standards. Dixon says the lab may open soon after that.