State-of-the-Art Forensics Lab Opens in D.C.

D.C.’s much-anticipated, state-of-the-art forensics lab officially opened Monday.

The building near the National Mall has facilities for testing firearms, running flu tests and analyzing chemicals in potential terror attacks.

From security doors using eye-identification to water tanks for testing bullets to a morgue storage room with space for 200 refrigerated bodies -- twice the former capacity -- the new, $210 million forensics headquarters, which took three years to construct,  is a major improvement for crime and chemical analysis that has eluded the District for decades.

“The potential that this building gives to the District of Columbia to increase, improve, expand its ability to do forensic analysis to solve crimes is just enormous,” D.C. Council member Phil Mendelson said.

It will be several more months before the building is fully operational, but then the city no longer will have to depend upon FBI facilities in Quantico and elsewhere for detailed analysis.

Some residents in nearby homes were initially worried that the building might pose a potential hazard if chemicals escape or there are fires.

“I think initially there were concerns because when Mayor (Tony) Williams brought up the idea it was not too far after 9/11, and so folks were naturally concerned that we might have agents in the air,” Southwest Neighborhood Commissioner Andy Litsky said.

“When you walk by a government building, you really don’t need to get scared by what’s happening inside,” said Allam al-Alami, of D.C. General Services. “It is a friendly looking building.”

He added, “Again, regardless of all of the sophisticated science that does go inside the building, this building has layers of safety that went into the design and layers of security, also, that may not be visible on the street.”

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