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Speeches By EPA Administrator

 

EPA Anthrax Awards Ceremony, Washington, D.C.

01/30/2003
Remarks for Governor Christine Todd Whitman

Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

at the

Anthrax Awards Ceremony

Washington, D.C.

January 30, 2003


Thank you Morris (Winn) for that introduction. I would also like to thank Marianne Horinko and Tom Voltaggio for participating in this program today and for all of their leadership throughout the anthrax response last year.

It = s an honor to be with all of you today and to have the opportunity to recognize your significant contributions to the emergency response and clean up efforts following the anthrax attacks on Capitol Hill and around the country.

During September 2001, we witnessed two very distinct faces of terror B the horror of instantaneous mass destruction and the crippling fear of a biological agent spread covertly through the postal system.

While each terrorist attack posed different challenges and tested us in different ways one thing remained the same B the commitment and dedication of EPA employees to protect and safeguard the health and safety of the American people.

On September 11, EPA personnel were some of the first men and women on the scene at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and in Pennsylvania. That day, this Agency began a massive effort to support rescue and clean up efforts. No sooner did we begin to get a grip on one of the most tragic and devastating attacks in our nation= s history B we were faced with a new threat.

When anthrax was first released through our postal system in late September, EPA was immediately on the front lines. Our knowledge of biological and chemical contaminants coupled with our emergency response and clean up capabilities, put EPA in the unique position to lead the effort to remediate areas affected by anthrax and provide citizens with the information they needed to protect themselves.

However, even with thirty years of experience responding to emergency situations, in dealing with the anthrax attacks we were entering uncharted territory. Anthrax was a biological agent about which we knew very little, and with the exception of a small laboratory, there had never been a clean up of a building contaminated with anthrax spores.

In spite of these difficulties, EPA rose to the challenge and worked tirelessly over many months to clean up and restore buildings to use on Capitol Hill and at other contaminated sites.

From the groundbreaking use of chlorine dioxide gas to fumigate the office space in the Hart Senate building to coordinating a large scale clean up effort made up of various federal agencies and contractors to protecting the health and safety of citizens in the surrounding areas B I = m proud of the work EPA did in successfully managing a crisis none of us could have ever imagined.

We literally wrote the book on responding to bio-terrorism as we went along, and it is not an exaggeration to say that EPA and its partners did more during that time to advance knowledge about the science and technology of anthrax detection and cleanup than in the past three decades combined of EPA = s existence.

Looking back now it = s easy to see all the obstacles that had to be overcome, but what I remember isn= t the obstacles B it = s the determination of each of you in this room to endure personal sacrifice, to risk your own health and safety, and to press on with perseverance to see the job done.

Whether leading decontamination efforts, developing technical response plans, or facilitating the work with our other partners, each of you has gone above and beyond the call of duty B earning you the respect and gratitude of your peers and your country.

In a few moments, we will present you with a special medal to serve as a remembrance of how you did not falter but stayed the course and carried out your duties faithfully during one of our nation = s darkest hours of need.

Of course, for all that you have done, in many ways our job is just beginning. As the lead agency for clean up following a biological or chemical attack, there is a chance that EPA will be called to the front lines once again.

Though, we hope this will never happen, I have full confidence that if faced with another terrorist threat, each of you will rise to meet it with the same steadfast conviction and exceptional courage with which you have all served.

Thank you.