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Response to EPA Inspector General Report on the BioWatch Program

Release Date: 03/25/2005
Contact Information:

Contact: EPA Press Office, 202-564-4355

(03/25/05) Clearly much of the information related to the BioWatch program is sensitive and a detailed discussion of specifics of the system would be inappropriate for national security reasons. However, this agency can assure American citizens that EPA has acted swiftly and soundly in the areas of concern raised by the Inspector General.

Since the establishment of the initial BioWatch network, the U.S. Government continues to make substantial improvements to the program – from the quantity of monitors to security at monitoring sites to quality assurance activities. These improvements effectively resolve the concerns raised by EPA’s Inspector General.

In fact, as of last month, EPA has worked with every BioWatch city to ensure that the monitoring equipment at every site is functioning properly, is secure, and is able to effectively detect biological agents in the event they were released.

And we know the program is working – since its inception, the BioWatch team, with the support of state and local public health officials, has sited and continues to site hundreds of monitors across the nation that have successfully yielded tens of thousands of samples.

EPA worked with DHS and state and local agencies to deploy monitors on an extremely tight schedule because of rising security concerns. EPA is meeting the requirements of the Department of Homeland Security.

BioWatch is a “first of its kind” that brings together the best expertise the nation has to offer. This includes teams of specialists from DHS, EPA, CDC, Los Alamos National Laboratories, Lawrence Livermore Laboratories, and the Department of Defense that are experts in medicine, epidemiology, public health management, forensic sciences, biological aerosol detection and modeling.

The BioWatch network is an important tool for detecting a biological attack. It is an early-warning system designed to detect the release of biological agents in the air so that there is time for federal, state, and local officials to deliver the most effective response.