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New England Laboratories Exercise Readiness for Water Contamination Incident

Release Date: 03/06/2008
Contact Information: Sheryl Rosner – (617) 918-1865

BOSTON (March 6, 2008) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s New England Regional Laboratory in Chelmsford, MA, played host to a first of its kind water contamination exercise last month. New England’s state and federal laboratories and a regional water utility participated in the exercise which was deemed a success in helping to solidify the cooperation that already exists among New England’s federal and state laboratories and water utilities.

“Practicing the collaborative roles and “mutual aid” envisioned among regional laboratories that would be called upon to produce all of the analytic results in the event of a drinking water contamination incident is extremely important,” stated Robert W. Varney, EPA Administrator of the New England Regional Office. “As we all know, you do not want to find out where our lab capabilities have run out during a real event.”

EPA has developed and is exercising plans that coordinate laboratory support for responses to actual or suspected drinking water contamination incidents. In 2006 and 2007 EPA developed drinking water Regional Laboratory Response Plans (RLRPs) for each of the ten EPA regions across the nation. State environmental and public health laboratories and representative water utility laboratories were active participants in the development of these plans.

This year, EPA is conducting functional exercises of the RLRPs, the first of which was held in New England in February. These exercises are designed to simulate a response to a water contamination event involving both a biological and chemical threat agent. The exercise provided an exhaustive test of the New England laboratory response plan and an opportunity to test a coordinated laboratory response to a water contamination event. The participating labs and water utility were asked to identify the contaminants and then to handle the surge of samples required to ascertain the extent of contamination.

In addition, the event included a simultaneous biomonitoring exercise developed by the New England state public health laboratories with support from the Centers for Disease Control. This adjunct exercise included analysis of clinical specimens simulating human exposure to contaminated drinking water, at the six New England state public health laboratories.

As a result of the exercise, the region has advanced its laboratory response capabilities in order to better respond to real water contamination events for the protection of public health.

For more information about EPA New England’s Laboratory visit: http://www.epa.gov/region1/lab/index.html