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2012 EPA Research Progress Report

Ready to Respond: Improving the Nation's Emergency Preparedness

In the event of an environmental disaster involving potential contamination from radiation, or biological or chemical agents, the need for fast, accurate laboratory analysis is essential for supporting emergency response, recovery, and remediation operations. In the ten years since EPA’s Homeland Security Research program was established, Agency researchers have helped the nation become significantly prepared for just such response activities.

Agency scientists increased the nation’s ability to analyze large quantities of environmental samples following the intentional or unintentional release of hazardous chemical, biological, or radiological (CBR) substances. To accomplish that, they have established the Environmental Response Laboratory Network (ERLN), a nationwide network of analytical labs that can quickly support large-scale responses.

In support of the Network, EPA researchers have prepared Selected Analytical Methods for Environmental Remediation and Recovery (SAM) – 2012, the latest update of a compendium of methods for use in analyzing samples for chemical, biological, radiological, and biotoxin contamination.

The standardized analytical methods presented in SAM allow labs to share samples; this increases the speed of analysis, improves data comparability, and simplifies the task of recruiting and using commercial labs for rapid analytical support in the event of an emergency.

EPA researchers worked in collaboration with the Agency’s Office of Emergency Management, the Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water, the Office of Radiation and Indoor Air, and EPA Region 10 (serving the Pacific Northwest) to update and improve SAM 2012.

The latest version of SAM 2012 incorporates revisions to the list of target sample types and provides the latest analytical methods and procedures. Method updates included are based on the availability of new methods or data, and now present more than 200 method summaries for biological, chemical, and radiochemical agents.

EPA has developed companion documents to provide information regarding field screening equipment, sample collection, rapid screening and preliminary analysis equipment, and sample disposal information to supplement the analytical methods included in SAM 2012.

In addition to providing access to the latest document, EPA’s SAM-2012 website (www.epa.gov/sam) hosts a Methods Query, sample matrix type, or specific capabilities of a laboratory. The site also has full documentation of publicly available laboratory methods, companion documents, sample collection procedures, and links to technical contacts and key collaborators.

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