United States Senators Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia confirmed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) will construct its new Underground Mine Safety and Health Research Program facility in the southern town of Mace, east of Charleston.
Funding for the design and construction of the campus site are already secured through the fiscal year (FY) 2023 omnibus appropriations package.
It will replace NIOSH’s former research facility, the Lake Lynn Laboratory, where the agency was forced to leave in 2012. That multipurpose laboratory, which straddles the states of Pennsylvania and West Virginia, consisted of an underground experimental mine and an above-ground fire-testing facility which were used to conduct critical mine safety and health research.
NIOSH has been searching for a replacement location for the last decade, and the new site in Mace is the only location in the United States that meets the specific geologic criteria that will allow researchers to accommodate full-scale testing to continue the vital work conducted at Lake Lynn.
Manchin said he has worked closely with the CDC, the General Services Administration (GSA) and local stakeholders throughout the process, and the CDC – which oversees NOISH – has committed, as part of its plan to purchase the property, to invest in local water and wastewater infrastructure improvements to directly benefit the surrounding Pocahontas County community.
The total federal investment to construct the facility is estimated at approximately $94 million and, once fully operational, the site will have 12 full-time federal employees.
NIOSH Deputy Associate Director for Mining George Luxbacher told West Virginia Public Broadcasting that the purchased property is 465 acres but the surface development will only take up 12 acres of that, leaving 453 acres undisturbed.
“It will contain some of our underground workings within a limestone bed,” he noted.
“I am thrilled to announce the first new federal facility in West Virginia in decades,” said Manchin.
“It is only fitting that the epicenter for mine safety research would be in West Virginia given our proud history of mining the coal that powered our nation to greatness. I am also pleased that the CDC has committed to investing in water and wastewater systems upgrades that will benefit the local community as part of the new facility’s construction. I look forward to this continued partnership for years to come.”
Construction of the new facility is expected to take five years after a design phase of one year.