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EPA HOSTS BIOTERRORISM EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS FORUM

Release Date: 12/18/2001
Contact Information: Leo Kay, Press Office, 415/947-4306

     SAN FRANCISCO   The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency held a forum on bioterrorism and emergency preparedness Tuesday, Dec. 18 in San Francisco to bring together state, federal and local agencies with business, academia and non-profits to help coordinate future efforts to safeguard the nation's environment.

     On Monday, senior officials from California, Arizona, Nevada, Hawaii and tribal environmental agencies held a daylong meeting with EPA representatives to discuss emergency response, federal grant flexibility and several other issues related to emergency preparedness.  Each of the states detailed their emergency preparedness infrastructures, and discussed ways to improve state and federal coordination on cross-jurisdictional issues.

     At Tuesday's session, roughly two dozen speakers gave presentations to the EPA on their respective bioterrorism and emergency preparedness efforts, along with their thoughts on how the EPA can be the most helpful.

     "These past couple of days have offered us all a great opportunity to learn what everyone is doing to safeguard public health and the environment from potential terrorist attacks," said Wayne Nastri, administrator of the U.S. EPA's Pacific Southwest region.  "We're charting new ground since Sept. 11, which means that it's more important than ever to fully coordinate among the myriad state, local and federal agencies involved.  We must work together to maximize our resources."

     The following lists some of the key areas that the U.S. EPA is focusing emergency
preparedness resources on:

          Anthrax Decontamination:  U.S. EPA emergency response teams have assisted in the decontamination of several sites where anthrax had infected the workplace, including the Hart Senate building and the AMI Building in Boca Raton, Fla. The EPA has offered training on anthrax decontamination to other federal, state and local response teams, with plans to offer more training sessions in the coming year.


          Grant Flexibility:  In the agency's proposed budget for 2002, the EPA is allowing states to use previously designated funding for counter-terrorism efforts, such as beefing up security at public drinking water supplies.  The EPA gives out hundreds of millions of dollars to the states annually to run their environmental programs.

          Drinking Water Safety: The EPA is providing technical assistance and training to the drinking water industry to safeguard supplies.  Nationwide, the EPA is funding a series of workshops for large systems, to be followed by a similar series for smaller providers.

          Our Food Supply: The EPA is updating its procedures to minimize the risk of transmitting animal diseases from animal or poultry facilities.   The EPA is also working with states to regulate and track the use and application of highly toxic pesticides in agriculture.

          Coordination: The agency is working with other state, federal and local agencies to coordinate future response and training opportunities.          

          Web Safety: On Sept. 12, the EPA decided to remove sensitive materials from its Web site in the interest of national security.  The Risk Management Plan program included detailed information for thousands of large industrial facilities nationwide that handled, stored and processed hazardous materials.  The information remains available in public reading rooms while EPA continues to determine when, if ever, the materials will be re-posted on its Web site.

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