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Ground broken for new state lab

Artist rendering of the new state lab building
Dave Thompson
Artist rendering of the new state lab building

Ground was broken Tuesday for a new state laboratory.

The new lab will replace the current 50 year old lab.

"We've outgrown it in every possible way," Gov. Doug Burgum said at the groundbreaking ceremony. "It got stretched to the limits the last three or four years. The work that was going on there, to protect our environment and protect our citizens was truly life-saving work. This is way more than just a building — it's about the wok that goes on inside that building."

Burgum and others referenced the crowded, less-than-ideal conditions at the existing lab.

"This modern facility , which will be equipped with superior safety features, will ensure a quality testing environment, to identify emerging public health issues, including infectious diseases, communicable diseases, and anti-biotic resistant pathogens, said State Health Officer Dr. Nizar Wehbi. "All of this is done while also supporting the state's bioterrorism preparedness."

The lab will also be used by the Department of Environmental Quality. DEQ director Dave Glatt said the data produced by the lab is used in a number of ways.

"Are the things we're doing improving the environment, or are they hurting the environment," Glatt said. "It points us in the direction of how we can do better, as stewards of the environment going forward."

Glatt said the data is also used to monitor industry.

"That's to make sure they're complying with our permits," Glatt said. "(It) gives us end-points to remediation, to make sure when there's an accident, we get the environment back to where it was."

Glatt said it also helps cities and towns to make sure they have clean drinking water.

The lab is on the Capitol grounds – the first new building there in more than 40 years. The Legislature approved $15 million for a study of the lab –plus another $55 million for construction.

The lab is scheduled for completion in 2026.

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