Radiological Emergency Response Workshop for Water and Wastewater Facilities – Part 2

In mid August, ASDWA reported that New Hampshire was planning a one-day workshop to focus on radiological emergency response capabilities.  (See August 11, 2011 posting).  Below is part 2 of the proposed 3 part report.  This describes the agenda and the workshop as it unfolded.

On September 14, the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services hosted a one day workshop to discuss radiological emergency responses for water and wastewater facilities.  The state primacy agency partnered with their state Public Health and Homeland Security Departments as well as EPA Region 1 and the Department of Energy to provide a comprehensive training opportunity.  The goal of the workshop was to provide drinking water and wastewater facilities with a basic understanding of a radiological emergency; how it could affect their facility; and what response efforts are expected at the local, state and federal level.

The agenda included speakers from EPA Region 1, Emergency Planning and Response Branch to provide the basics on radiation, EPA’s role, and their response to the Fukushima, Japan nuclear incident. NH Public Health staff spoke about their state role as the lead agency in a radiological event.  As an added bonus, NH Public Health also presented “nuclear power operations 101” during lunch.

Staff from the US Department of Energy, Office of Emergency Response described the Federal response level and how they become involved during a radiological event.  Staff from the NH Emergency Management agency walked participants through WebEOC which is the crisis information management software program that is used to track all activities during emergency events.

In mid afternoon, workshop participants broke into groups, depending on facility type (groundwater, surface water, and wastewater), and played out a radiological event scenario that included discussions on issues related to response, notifications, backup power, evacuations, etc.  Everyone then came back together for a “hot wash” where each group shared key points from their breakout session.  This was done with the hope that even if some questions didn’t get answered in the moment, attendees went away with a better understanding of radiological events; became better prepared; and will build new or better relationships with other key responders in their communities to become part of the overall response efforts.

Stay tuned for Part 3 in which New Hampshire’s security coordinator, Johnna McKenna, will offer insights into the lessons learned and key next steps from the Workshop.  As noted earlier, ASDWA believes that this is the first training exercise devoted to water/wastewater response during a radiological emergency…kudos to New Hampshire!



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