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Board of Health updated on life sciences development

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Public Health Director Lauren Buck is preparing the Board of Health for the role they may have to play in regulating life sciences companies in the city. At the most recent Board of Health meeting on Thursday, May 26, Buck outlined the building of a life sciences building at Suffolk Downs and potential City Council ordinance changes to regulate tenants in the buildings.

“We currently have an ordinance that talks about the type and risk factor and risk levels of biotech labs that can come to the city,” Buck told the Board of Health. “That ordinance is being discussed by the City Council currently, and when the City Council decides whether they want to amend that ordinance or keep it the same, we will then be tasked with writing regulations regarding the ordinance.”

Buck read a statement from The HYM Investment Group, the developer of the Suffolk Downs property, about the proposed life science buildings at 100 and 150 Salt Streets. The buildings are being developed to facilitate life science, research, manufacturing, office space and retail uses. “The stage they are at in development is they have just started the foundation of the building, and they are anticipating that the building itself will be completed in early 2024,” Buck said.

HYM stated that, like most life science developers in the region, they are starting the design and construction of the building on spec and have not yet identified any tenants. “Any tenant looking to occupy the building will have to submit their plans to the City of Revere for review and approval prior to construction on their tenant space within the building, and can only open and operate under strict compliance with the applicable state and federal regulations, and also the regulations we promulgate in the city,” Buck said.

The research and manufacturing activities will be substantially the same and regulated the same as life science developments in Cambridge, Boston, Somerville and other communities in the state, Buck said.

“All future tenants will have to comply with fire protection and life safety standards already in the state building code, and also current hazardous materials regulations that are part of all the regulations that are out there,” said Buck, “so our regulations would be on top of all those already existing regulations.”

Buck noted that there are two ordinances currently being discussed by the City Council, one which would lower the level of biohazards allowed in the city from biohazard level 3 to biohazard level 2. Biohazard safety levels are classifications of safety precautions in the clinical, microbiological and laboratory spaces that are dependent on the specific pathogens being handled and the safety precautions that are necessary, according to Buck. Biohazard level 3 pathogens can include TB, malaria, yellow fever and Covid, and are typically microorganisms that can be fatal to humans, but for which vaccines and other treatments are available.

The second proposal would establish a Revere Biosafety Advisory Committee composed of Revere officials which would be under the jurisdiction of the Board of Health. “We would be writing regulations and then we would be enforcing those regulations,” said Buck.

Buck also presented the Board of Health with examples of municipal regulations from Cambridge and several other area communities.

“Eventually, the regulations that we are promulgating will require the Board of Health to work with biotech firms in a way where the onus of the regulations will be on the firm itself, but we will have to understand their safety committees and what they are doing,” said Buck.

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