BOSTON-Community and environmental activists have filed a federal lawsuit to stop the construction of a high-security laboratory in the South End that would deal with biological agents, including anthrax and the plague. The suit, drafted by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, seeks to stop the National Institute of Health from funding the 194,000-sf laboratory, which is currently being built on Albany Street by Boston University School of Medicine.

The funding was awarded to BUMC in September 2003 by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the NIH. The suit, filed late last week in US District Court here, claims the federal agency failed to adequately consider the potential environmental and health hazards associated with building a high security laboratory in a densely populated area before awarding BU $128 million to fund its construction.

“What we’re seeking is to stop the federal funding for this facility because they didn’t file the required environmental reviews,” Nadine Cohen, an attorney with the Lawyers’ Committee, tells “Before you put this lab in this densely populated neighborhood, you have to look at the potential health risks and we say they did not adequately do this as required.” Cohen says the legal advocacy group also plans to file a preliminary injunction with the court to immediately halt any further building until arguments in the case are heard.

Officials with the National Institute of Health and BUMC could not be reached for comment by A statement released by the lab’s director, Dr. Mark Klempner, however, said the laboratory underwent a “rigorous and thorough “approval process and “complied fully with all federal, state and local processes and procedures.”

The laboratory, one of four being built nationwide as part of the Bush Administrations plans to protect the nation against bioterrorism, lied in a predominantly minority area, a neighborhood that Cohen says is already overburdened by health and environmental problems. Cohen said BUMC also failed to adequately consider other sites for the project, including Hillsboro, NH and Tyngsboro, MA, where Boston University also owns property.

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