WITHIN THE FERVID, unseemly world that was Industrial Bio-Test Laboratories, the place where things turned gruesome was a room called “The Swamp”. In 1970, IBT’s directors installed a Hoeltge automatic watering system for one large animal feeding room midway through Number Three building. Although it was designed to fill drinking bottles and flush wastes from hundreds of rodent cages, the equipment rarely worked properly. Faulty nozzles sprayed the room with a continuing chilly mist, showering the caged animals. Water streamed off cages and racks, submerging the floor under a four-inch deep pool. Mice regularly drowned in their feeding troughs. Rats died of exposure. No technician entered the Swamp without rubber boots, and many wore masks to protect themselves from the hideous stench of disease and death.
During the course of a two-year feeding study, involving more than 200 animals, the mortality rate in the Swamp reached 80 percent. Worst of all was cleaning the cages. Dead rats and mice, technicians later told federal investigators, decomposed so rapidly in the Swamp that their bodies oozed through wire cage bottoms and lay in purple puddles on the dropping trays.