A debate raged during a community meeting Wednesday night, over the spread of deadly infectious diseases and plans for a bio-safety laboratory at Kalaeloa.
Hawaii is a destination of visitors from around the world, but some of those tourists could bring more than just sunscreen and luggage to the islands.
"We are vulnerable to infectious diseases, just due to the global travel of people," said Keith Mattson, the project manager for Pacific Health Research Laboratory.
Bird flu, SARS, even forms of tuberculosis could be carried to Hawaii. If there was a pandemic, the state's current bio-safety labs may not be able to keep up.
"We would be overwhelmed. If we had to depend on labs on the mainland, we would have to deal with time and priority concerns. We may not be their top priority, but for this lab Hawaii would be a priority," said Mattson.
While many feel Hawaii is vulnerable to infectious diseases coming out across the Pacific, some at Wednesday's meeting were more concerned with infectious diseases coming out of the new lab.
"I don't want pathogens in the air. I don't want us to get sick. Instead of a new laboratory being a good thing for anyone, it is not going to help us," said Maylene Keamo, a Kapolei Resident.
Mattson says there have been no problems with pathogens coming out of the state's current labs, during the past nine years. But some were focused on Hawaii's deadly history with infectious diseases that have been introduced to the islands.
"I'm Hawaiian and 90,000 to 900,000 Hawaiians died over diseases, when those diseases came to Hawaii. This is an insult to Hawaiians," said Dean Kalani Capelouto, a Makakilo resident.
The proposed lab run by the University of Hawaii would cover two acres, over what is currently a parking lot in Kalaeloa next to the Hawaii National Guard base. At 31,000 square feet, it would be the state's largest facility. While safety is the number one concern, other leeward Oahu residents said they were simply tired of getting stuck with projects no other community wants.
"We have the Waimanalo Gulch Landfill, the H-power plant. We have become the dumping grounds of the entire island. This bio-safety lab doesn't belong here," said Honolulu City Councilman Tom Berg.
"We have all the hazards and pollutants in our district. We have enough already," added Marissa Capelouto, with the Kapolei/Makakilo Neighborhood Board.
More community meetings will be held to inform residents of the National Institute of Health's plans, which call for more than a dozen bio-safety labs run by universities across the country. The nearest currently operating facility is in Colorado.
Meanwhile, an environmental assessment of the proposed lab is being conducted. The results are expected to be released at the end of the summer.