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Investigation of Disease Center Delayed

July 31, 2006

AMES, Iowa (AP) _ The investigation into waste disposal policies at the National Animal Disease Center, which was slated to start in June, has yet to begin.

Ames water and pollution control director Tom Neumann said a law defining how investigations of federal agencies must occur led to the delay.

Neumann said the investigation is now scheduled to begin in mid-to-late August. Findings scheduled to be released at the end of August might not be ready until December, he said.

``We thought we had everything ironed out a couple months ago, however, we were not aware, and apparently neither were some of the NADC personnel, of the federal statutory requirements involving a panel such as this,″ Neumann said.

A team of experts was formed to look into claims from animal caretakers Richard Auwerda and Timothy Gogerty that the lab’s waste disposal practices don’t effectively deactivate prions, the misshapen proteins blamed for some deadly diseases in humans and animals.

Two members have been dismissed from the team looking into protocols at the laboratory. The Federal Advisory Committee Act says that only federal employees or employees of public universities can participate in the investigation.

Robert Somerville, from the United Kingdom’s Institute of Animal Health, and Pierluigi Gambetti, a professor at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio, have been let go from the 11-member investigative team.

Neumann said the investigation will be done publicly. Findings will be issued in a report about 90 days after the investigation starts.

According to Neumann, Ames rejected a suggestion by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to let a subcommittee of a science advisory panel to the USDA handle the investigation.

The city would have been excluded from the deliberations.

``We would have been out of the loop,″ Neumann said. ``We refused to accept that.″

Neumann said he believes the process of putting together the investigation has cleared its final hurdle.

``It’s been frustrating that it’s just taken this long to get off the dime and start moving forward,″ Neumann said. ``Hopefully, once we get started it will go smoothly and more quickly than it’s taken to get to this point.″


Information from: The Tribune, http://www.amestrib.com

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