Environmental Response Team-West Grand Opening
EPA Enhances Nationwide Emergency Response Capabilities
On February 6, 2003, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officially opened "Environmental Response Team - West" in Las Vegas, Nevada. The ERT - West was established to make the technical expertise of the EPA Environmental Response Team more accessible nationwide. Wayne Nastri, Regional Administrator for Region 9, and Marianne Horinko, Assistant Administrator of EPA's Office of Superfund Remediation Technology Innovation (OSWER) conducted the ribbon-untieing ceremony.
The Environmental Response Team (ERT) has been based in Edison, NJ and Cincinnati, OH since its creation in 1978 to provide assistance in environmental emergencies. When the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation & Liability Act (CERCLA, known as Superfund) was passed in 1980, ERT was established as a branch within the Office of Superfund Remediation Technology Innovation. It contains skilled experts in emergency responses of all types, and has provided technical support on over 1500 national and international hazardous materials events. The staff also serve as in- house consultants on innovative and emerging technologies and are recognized experts in several fields of science. There is even an ERT dive team, with a former Navy SEAL, to assess underwater sources of contamination.
Their ability to respond to emergencies has placed ERT at the scene of major terrorist events. They provided air monitoring at the World Trade Center with mobile gas analyzers. They set up Human Health & Ecological Risk procedures for the responders. For the anthrax cleanups, they helped develop analytical strategies, and conducted real-time air analysis of the perimeter of the buildings where chlorine dioxide was pumped inside to kill anthrax spores. They not only assist in such response and decontamination, they provide training to first responders, such as local fire fighters and other emergency personnel, on all aspects of emergency response and readiness. Technology training programs include:
- Air, soil and water monitoring and sampling
- Assessing and responding to chemical, biological and radiological threats
- On-site identification and analysis of contaminated materials
- Environmental risk assessments
- Oil spill cleanups
- Human Health & Ecological Risk protocols
- Hazardous waste site cleanups at extremely complex and sensitive sites
EPA's role in homeland security has expanded since the events at the World Trade Center and Hart Building complex. Twenty new staff have been added to strengthen EPA's ability to respond simultaneously to multiple incidents It has expanded its expertise in the areas of weapons of mass destruction, building decontamination, and biological warfare response. More recently, EPA has been involved in debris recovery from the Space Shuttle Columbia. The establishment of ERT-West enhances EPA's ability to support first responders nationwide.