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Analysis of environmental contamination resulting from catastrophic incidents: Part 1. Building and sustaining capacity in laboratory networks

Magnuson, Matthew, Ernst, Hiba, Griggs, John, Fitz-James, Schatzi, Mapp, Latisha, Mullins, Marissa, Nichols, Tonya, Shah, Sanjiv, Smith, Terry, Hedrick, Elizabeth
Environment international 2014 v.72 pp. 83-89
United States Environmental Protection Agency, air, construction materials, disasters, environmental assessment, infrastructure, monitoring, occupational accidents, planning, pollution, soil, vegetation, wastewater, United States
Catastrophic incidents, such as natural disasters, terrorist attacks, and industrial accidents, can occur suddenly and have high impact. However, they often occur at such a low frequency and in unpredictable locations that planning for the management of the consequences of a catastrophe can be difficult. For those catastrophes that result in the release of contaminants, the ability to analyze environmental samples is critical and contributes to the resilience of affected communities. Analyses of environmental samples are needed to make appropriate decisions about the course of action to restore the area affected by the contamination. Environmental samples range from soil, water, and air to vegetation, building materials, and debris. In addition, processes used to decontaminate any of these matrices may also generate wastewater and other materials that require analyses to determine the best course for proper disposal. This paper summarizes activities and programs the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) has implemented to ensure capability and capacity for the analysis of contaminated environmental samples following catastrophic incidents. USEPA's focus has been on building capability for a wide variety of contaminant classes and on ensuring national laboratory capacity for potential surges in the numbers of samples that could quickly exhaust the resources of local communities. USEPA's efforts have been designed to ensure a strong and resilient laboratory infrastructure in the United States to support communities as they respond to contamination incidents of any magnitude. The efforts include not only addressing technical issues related to the best-available methods for chemical, biological, and radiological contaminants, but also include addressing the challenges of coordination and administration of an efficient and effective response. Laboratory networks designed for responding to large scale contamination incidents can be sustained by applying their resources during incidents of lesser significance, for special projects, and for routine surveillance and monitoring as part of ongoing activities of the environmental laboratory community.