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EPA Laboratory Open House in Chelmsford Will Highlight Homeland Security Prototype Screening Unit; Open House on January 11th, 7 PM

Release Date: 01/03/2007
Contact Information: David Deegan, (617) 918-1017

(Chelmsford, Mass. – Jan. 3, 2007) – EPA’s New England Regional Laboratory, based in Chelmsford, Mass., will be piloting a prototype mobile screening unit that will enhance EPA’s ability to support emergency responders in the event of a potential terrorist incident.

Members of the community are invited to an open house at the regional laboratory on January 11th at 7 p.m. to learn more about the pilot screening program and how EPA protects public health and New England’s environment. The regional laboratory is located at 11 Technology Drive, North Chelmsford, Mass. 01863-2431.

The 2001 anthrax incidents raised concerns in laboratories across the country that unknown specimens delivered to them by law enforcement agencies for testing might contain other hazards. A workgroup chaired by the Department of Homeland Security, along with EPA and other federal agencies determined that screening unknown samples in a secure, sophisticated but stand-alone facility could enhance safety at the nation’s laboratory facilities.

EPA’s Regional Laboratory has made providing accurate environmental data to emergency responders a high priority. The mobile screening unit will provide the ability to analyze unknown or suspicious samples in a secure environment and represents an important expansion of EPA’s emergency response capabilities.

The 14-by-48 foot prototype unit is one of only two currently being operated nationwide in a year long test. The other mobile screen unit is at the Wadsworth Center, in Albany N.Y. The prototype is a stand alone facility, which would receive and provide secure screening for suspicious or unknown samples before bringing them into the permanent laboratory facility. The Department of Homeland Security will use the prototype as a model for similar units to be put into use in all 50 states.

Most of the tests to be performed in the mobile unit during the pilot program will be simple screens, for example, ones that indicate the presence of a chemical by a color change. Depending on the results of the screen, the sample would enter the permanent facility for additional sampling, or be repackaged and transported to another laboratory for further assessment.

In addition to the mobile laboratory, EPA is working on a second pilot program designed to expand the laboratory’s ability to test for industrial chemicals and military agents. This expanded capability would enable to laboratory to sample soil, debris or water, and provide analytical information to responders who are cleaning up a contaminated site resulting from a possible terrorist incident. Both pilots are expected to take approximately twelve months to complete.

More information: EPA’s New England Regional Laboratory (

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