EPA National Homeland Security Research Center Updates


Comparison of Ultrafiltration Techniques for Recovering Biothreat Agents in Water:  Report

Intentional contamination of drinking water supplies is a concern for water utilities and federal, state, and local agencies tasked with protecting human health and the environment. Because relatively low levels of biothreat agents can cause human health effects, sensitive detection of these agents in drinking water is needed. Most rapid response analytical techniques assay small sample volumes or require high concentrations of analytes; therefore, to enable sensitive detection of biothreat agents large volumes of water should be collected and concentrated. Alternative large-volume water sampling techniques have been published for viruses, bacteria, and parasites, but the effectiveness of these methods are generally optimized for particular microbes types. However, in the event of a biological attack on a drinking water system, the biothreat agent may not be known with certainty and deployment of multiple sampling techniques would be a logistical challenge and resource intensive. For this reason, the U.S. EPA and U.S. CDC have worked together to investigate methods to enable rapid and sensitive analysis of water samples for diverse, unidentified biothreat agents. This is the final report for the EPA and CDC Biological Sample Preparation Collaboration Project to compare EPA and CDC ultrafiltration techniques for recovering biothreat agents in water.


Development and Testing of Methods to Decontaminate a Building’s Plumbing System Impacted by Water Contamination Event: Decontamination of Bacillus Spores:  Report

This report describes the work on decontamination of bacillus spores in building water systems done at NIST (Gaithersburg, MD). The focus is on Bacillus anthracis (BA) spores and the use of a simulant species B. thuringiensis (BT). Simulated water systems were developed using either commercial biofilm reactors or pipe section reactors. The adhesion and disinfection of BT and BA spores adhered to the biofilm-conditioned pipe materials by chlorine and monochloramine was measured in under different conditions including low flow and high flow.


Technical Brief – Rapid Viability PCR Method for Detection of Live Bacillus anthracis Spores:  Summary

The EPA developed Rapid Viability PCR (RV-PCR) method determines the presence or absence of live B. anthracis spores, which is a key analytical requirement during the cleanup phase of a response. This method can be more sensitive than the traditional culture-based method because RV-PCR uses the whole sample for analysis. RV-PCR is relatively rapid and cost-effective.

A Performance-Based Approach to the Use of Swipe Samples in Response to a Radiological or Nuclear Incident :  Report

This document describes the various swipe techniques that may be used to sample surfaces contaminated by radioactive materials following an incident such as the detonation of an improvised nuclear device (IND) or a radiological dispersal device (RDD) (“dirty bomb”). While simple in concept, procedures used to take a swipe sample may vary considerably in practice. A standard method or technique for taking swipe samples does not exist. This means the fraction of the total removable radioactive surface contamination transferred to the swipe will also vary depending on the technique used. It is anticipated that a large number of swipes will be taken, so it is essential that the data generated are accurate so that they will be useful for the decisions that need to be made. While some may be counted in the field, others will be sent to laboratories for analysis. This document was developed to provide guidance to those radioanalytical laboratories that will support EPA’s response and recovery actions following a radiological or nuclear incident.

Assessment of Liquid and Physical Decontamination Methods for Environmental Surfaces Contaminated with Bacterial Spores: Development and Evaluation of the Decontamination Procedural Steps :  Report

This report supports priorities established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) National Homeland Security Research Center (NHSRC), to provide scientific expertise and evaluation on readily available, “low tech” decontamination methods which could be used to remediate and restore areas contaminated by biological threat agents such as Bacillus anthracis spores.

Bio-response Operational Testing and Evaluation (BOTE) Project :  Summary

The Bio-response Operational Testing and Evaluation (BOTE) Project is a multi-agency effort designed to operationally test and evaluate biological incident (anthrax release) response from health/law enforcement response through environmental remediation.


Acute Low Dose Bacillus anthracis Ames Inhalation Exposures in the Rabbit :  Report

Credible dose-response relationships are needed to more accurately assess the risk posed by exposure to low-level Bacillus anthracis contamination during or following a release. The objective of this study was to evaluate physiological responses following an acute exposure to low doses of B. anthracis Ames spores.

In-Office Dispersion and Exposure to Contaminants Originating From an Unfolded Letter:  Book Chapter

This chapter seeks to begin to quantify and study the fluid and aerosol dynamic processes of exposures resulting from dust lying on the surface of a letter being resuspended by room eddies

Review and Design of Low Dose Bacillus anthracis Inhalation Exposures, Meeting Report:  Report

In July 2011, EPA NHSRC sponsored a Review and Design of Low-Dose Bacillus anthracis Inhalation Exposures meeting to review the research done to date and to identify gaps that future research should address regarding low-dose exposures. This effort brought together many organizations across the country, including EPA’s program offices, federal government agencies and laboratories, academia, and the private sector. Participants of the conference shared knowledge, explored differing opinions, and expanded understanding of the current state of research for low-dose exposure and future research needs. This report represents a summary of the presentations and discussions during the meeting.


Thermal inactivation of viable bacillus anthracis surrogate in a bench scale enclosed landfill gas flare:  Journal article

A bench-scale landfill flare system was designed and built to test the potential for landfilled biological spores that migrate from the waste into the landfill gas to pass through the flare and exit into the environment as viable. The residence times and temperatures of the flare were characterized and compared to full-scale systems. Geobacillus stearothermophilus and Bacillus atrophaeus, nonpathogenic spores that serve as surrogates for Bacillus anthracis, the causative agent for anthrax, were investigated to determine whether these organisms would be inactivated or exhibit growth (i.e., remain viable) after passing through a simulated landfill flare.

EPA’s Incident Waste Assessment & Tonnage Estimator (I-WASTE):  Summary

The I-WASTE tool has been developed by EPA’s Homeland Security Research Program to address waste management information gaps. I-WASTE provides information on types and volumes of waste materials and potential contaminants generated during an incident, location and contact information for potential treatment/disposal facilities, as well as health and safety information to ensure public and worker safety during the removal, transport, treatment, and disposal of contaminated waste and debris.


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