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Critical Science Gaps in the Cleanup of a Wide-Area Release of Biological Agents

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2018 Annual Meeting of the Council of Sponsoring Institutions
Gregory Sayles, Ph.D.
US EPA, National Homeland Security Research Center

Published in: Government & Nonprofit
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Critical Science Gaps in the Cleanup of a Wide-Area Release of Biological Agents

  1. 1. Critical Science Gaps in the Cleanup of a Wide-Area Release of Biological Agents Gregory Sayles, Ph.D. US EPA, National Homeland Security Research Center ORAU Annual Meeting, March 8, 2018 1
  2. 2. Questions for Today 2 What is a wide-area biological incident? What is EPA’s role in the response? What are the critical science capabilities we still need?
  3. 3. What is a wide-area biological incident? • Terrorists can spread Bacillus anthracis unnoticed in an urban area • The contamination may not be detected until people get sick • Winds and other environmental processes will move the contamination • Human and vehicular traffic will also increase the contaminated area • DHS modeling of release in Denver 5% 10% 20% ICt From DHS’ Wide Area Recovery and Resiliency Program
  4. 4. How “wide” is a wide- area incident? DHS/EPA example of spores in a subway New York Subway System (MTA) 4
  5. 5. EPA Homeland Security Responsibilities 5 Authorities Bioterrorism Act Presidential Directives Executive Orders National Response Framework Elements of: – Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act – Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act – Clean Water Act – Safe Drinking Water Act – Oil Pollution Act – Clean Air Act – Resource Conservation and Recovery Act Responsibilities • Support water systems to prepare for and recover from attacks and other disasters by leading efforts to provide States and water utilities guidance, tools and strategies. EPA is the federal government Sector Specific Agency lead for water infrastructure. • Clean up buildings and outdoor areas impacted by a terrorist attack or other disaster by leading efforts to establish clearance goals and clean up. • Develop a nationwide laboratory network with the capability and capacity to analyze for chemical, biological and radiological (CBR) agents for routine monitoring and in response to a terrorist attacks.
  6. 6. What do we need? • Sampling and analytical methods • Decon methods • Waste management strategies 7 • Effective in the field • Diversity of approaches • Scalable • Readily available • Cost effective • Decision support tools
  7. 7. 8 How do biological agents move in the environment? • Resuspension • Wind • Precipitation • People, vehicles Do they persist? Where and when do we sample if spores are on the move? • Establish exclusion zones • Design sampling and decon plans Fate andTransport or, where are the spores today?
  8. 8. Characterizing the Environment For a wide-area cleanup, traditional approaches to characterization will greatly impede progress: • Analytical capacity – need rapid, uniformly used, methods • Sampling capacity – need scalability • Screening versus clearance? 9
  9. 9. EPA’s Selected Analytical Methods (SAM) website • Creating a one stop shop for end users’ sample collection and analysis needs • https://www.epa.gov/homeland-security-research/sam 10 Uniformly applied analytical methods Identifies a single, selected method for each analyte/sample type in a specific matrix (e.g. soil, water, air) • Permits sharing of sample load between laboratories • Increases the speed of analysis • Improves data comparability • Simplifies potential outsourcing analytical support
  10. 10. Sampling Approaches – improving capacity
  11. 11. Decontamination Approaches • Need effective decontamination “technologies” for a variety of situations: • Inside buildings • Sensitive equipment (bldg. controls, trains, medical equip, valuable artifacts) • Outside • Urban surfaces • Soil and vegetation • Critical infrastructure • Subways, hospitals, airports • Need scalable capacity • Self help guidance? 12
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  14. 14. Managing Wastes •Can’t clean everything à Waste •One of the largest challenges of overall remediation • Huge amounts • Debris, vegetation? • Porous materials like carpet? • Vehicles? •Difficult to place highly-contaminated waste •Need on-site treatment options so treated waste can be accepted at landfills 15
  15. 15. Non-Spores?Vegetative organisms Most past R&D focused on anthrax spores Other important biological pathogens: • Ebola virus (2014) • HPAI virus (2015) • Burkholderia (2014-5) • Yersinia pestis (plague) • Francisella tularemia
  16. 16. Water System Cleanup 17 Water and wastewater systems can also become contaminated • EPA tests methods/technologies work for decontamination of infrastructure and management of contaminated water for CBR threats. • EPA develops tools to support response to water system contamination EPA Water Security Test Bed, Idaho National Lab
  17. 17. Interdependent Activities 18 Need Decision Support Tools • Training • Real-time response
  18. 18. 19 Source: Domestic Preparedness website. “Incident Scale & the Need for Operational Resilience” by John Contestabile & Richard Waddell, January 24, 2018
  19. 19. Thank you! 20 The views expressed in this presentation are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Any mention of trade names, products, or services does not imply an endorsement by the U.S. Government or the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA does not endorse any commercial products, services, or enterprises.

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