Environmental Response Laboratory Network
The Environmental Response Laboratory Network (ERLN) is EPA's national network of laboratories that can be accessed as needed to support large scale environmental responses. With the threat of a chemical, biological, and radiological attack to the United States becoming more complex, the need for accurate, timely environmental testing capabilities becomes even more crucial.
Other laboratory networks, such as U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) National Animal Health Network and the Food and Drug Administration's/USDA's Food Emergency Response Network have some environmental testing abilities. However, because the environment is not their mission, their capacity to test environmental samples can become overtaxed in a large scale response. EPA's ERLN is solely dedicated to the testing of environmental samples.
Participation in the ERLN is based on a laboratory's ability to meet the ERLN's core quality requirements. These requirements streamline the network and allow for consistent analytical capabilities, capacities, and quality data that are managed in a systematic, coordinated manner. The integration of public sector laboratories with accredited private sector laboratories leads to networking possibilities for ERLN members. More importantly, the ERLN is able to serve the nation by making it better prepared for a nationally significant event.
- Provide federal, state, and local decision-makers with reliable, high quality analyses of chemical, biological, and radiological samples taken in support of response and cleanup activities.
- Provide environmental laboratory testing capability and capacity to meet EPA's responsibilities for surveillance, response, decontamination and recovery from incidents involving release of chemical, biological, or radiological contaminants.
- Facilitate coordination of laboratories capable of responding efficiently and effectively to incidents.
- Maintain and establish relationships with other federal laboratory networks through the Integrated Consortium of Laboratory Networks (ICLN) in preparation for a major environmental event.
One of the capabilities of the ERLN is analyzing Chemical Warfare Agents (CWAs). There are 10 CWA laboratories across the country, including three mobile laboratories, which are capable of receiving, storing, and analyzing Chemical Warfare Agent samples. With this expertise, the ERLN is able to provide environmental laboratory testing capability and capacity to meet EPA's responsibilities for surveillance of, response to, and recovery from incidents involving CWAs. These laboratories participate in performance exercises and multi-laboratory studies.
The ERLN unveiled Phase 1 in spring 2008 with three CWA laboratories: EPA Region 1 Laboratory, EPA Region 3 Laboratory, and the Virginia Division of Consolidated Laboratory Services. These laboratories have completed EPA gap analysis studies and made required infrastructure improvements necessary to operate. Four additional laboratories are located in Regions 6, 9, 10, and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection Bureau Laboratories.
Mobile Laboratories (PHILIS Units)
The ERLN augments CWA response with three Portable High Throughput Integrated Laboratory Identification Systems (PHILIS). These PHILIS units provide real-time, onsite data to response personnel for the timely and cost-effective mitigation of CWA contaminated sites. The mobile laboratories also provide analysis of toxic industrial chemicals in the event of a natural disaster or accidental release, using state of the art gas chromatography/mass spectrometry techniques.
There is a fully operational PHILIS unit in New Jersey and Colorado.