DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC HEALTH
The long-awaited, state-of-the art Department of Public Health laboratory is nearing completion and is expected to be ready for occupancy by late spring.
Construction of the $75 million facility, located on 22 acres across the street from Dinosaur State Park and adjacent to the Veterans’ Home and Hospital, should be substantially completed by the end of February. A June occupancy is planned, public health spokesman Bill Gerrish said.
The three-story, 100,000-square-foot-building will replace the health department’s cramped, antiquated laboratory at 10 Clinton St. in Hartford. It will be rated for both Bio-Safety Level 2 and Level 3 work, allowing for testing on such potentially virulent agents as tuberculosis and anthrax.
About 100 lab employees currently working in Hartford will relocate to the new facility. The move will be done in phases and take 8 to 12 weeks, Gerrish said.
Construction on the West Street site began in 2010 after the State Bond Commission in April approved funding. The work had been pegged to end in 2011, but was pushed back a few months because the project has seen “its share of issues,” said Jeffrey R. Beckham, communications director for the Department of Administrative Services. “It’s one of our more complicated buildings.”
Designed by the Stamford architectural firm Flad & Associates, with construction management services by Whiting-Turner of New Haven, the building will house lab facilities for biological, environmental chemistry and biohazard testing, along with administrative and scientific support services.
About 5 percent of the lab space will be dedicated for testing Bio-Safety Level 3 agents. The bulk of the area will be used for the more than 2 million tests the department does annually for newborn disorders, sexually transmitted diseases, food- and water-borne illnesses, environmental screening and other public health issues such as rabies and influenza.
State health officials warned that, without the new lab, testing would be contracted to outside labs because of the deterioration at Clinton Street.
The design of the building includes sophisticated safety and security features, such as multiple air-handling systems and biocontainment areas. The property is accessed through a gated entrance and there will be 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week security.
Site excavation work was done with painstaking care after additional dinosaur tracks, similar to, and even older than those at the nearby state park, were found. Some of those fossils are permanently exhibited on the property.