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Homeland Security Research Program (HSRP)

Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and the subsequent mailing of letters containing spores of Bacillus anthracis, the bacteria that causes anthrax, EPA was assigned its homeland security responsibilities.  These responsibilities are described in the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act (Bioterrorism Act) of 2002, and a series of Homeland Security Presidential Directives.  Through response to these early incidents, we learned that scientific research was required to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of EPA's response to these incidents.  EPA established the HSRP to fill these gaps.

The research of the HSRP has proven to have multiple applications.  Research on decontaminating anthrax contaminated areas has been applied in responding to outbreaks of diseases such as ebola and burkholderia.  Recent major disasters such as the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010, Hurricane Sandy in 2012, and the Oklahoma tornadoes in 2013 showed that the health of communities requires resiliency to all types of disasters through preparation and  the means to rapidly recover.  Research in support of preparation and response to intentional contamination is applicable to preparation and response to natural disasters as well.

HSRP supports community resiliency through its research related to EPA's lead federal agency responsibilities:

  • maintaining the security of water and wastewater systems
  • remediation following contamination incidents and natural disasters
  • development of a nationwide laboratory network with the capacity and capability to analyze samples for the presence of chemicals and biotoxins, microbial pathogens, or radiological agents

EPA and partner agencies work to foster resiliency in communities through research and technical assistance for organizations responsible for response and recovery.  

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Homeland Security Research Program (HSRP) Plan

The HSRP Research Plan acknowledges that environmental cleanup involves an interconnected system of activities that require coordinated efforts to optimize cleanup effectiveness, minimize cost and recovery time, and reduce unintended consequences. EPA works with a number of partners to optimize environmental cleanup activities.

The HSRP is driven by the science and technological needs expressed by its partners including:

  • incident response personnel
  • water utilities
  • analytical laboratories
  • other government organizations

Partner needs are organized into a series of science questions.  To answer these questions, we develop systems-based research projects that consider all components of a cleanup operation.

The HSRP currently consists of projects aimed at answering the following questions:

  • What strategies are needed to make communities, including their water systems, more resilient?
  • What information is needed about contaminant behavior and associated exposure/risk to inform mitigation?
  • What tools and information are needed to detect contamination and mitigate initial impacts?
  • What sampling and analysis methods, protocols, and strategies are needed to enable and inform response and remediation decisions?
  • What are the best approaches to communicate risks associated with environmental contamination?
  • What are the techniques to minimize impacts and decontaminate following a contamination incident?
  • What are the techniques to manage and dispose of contaminated water and waste generated during cleanup?
  • What are the systems approaches for integration of overall response and remediation strategies?
  • What expertise and consultation is provided to HSRP customers to assist them in their preparedness, response and remediation activities?

In the future, additional research questions might come from:

  • EPA’s responsibility to support the U.S. Food and Drug Administration under the Food Safety Modernization Act by coordinating with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, on the development of standards, protocols, plans and exercises for the decontamination and disposal from food and agriculture emergencies.
  • The emergence of classes of chemical warfare agents not yet addressed by EPA or the HSRP.
  • The increased attention being paid to managing nuclear contamination as the full scope of the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster unfolds.

Related Resources

Disaster Related Resources

Laboratory Resources

Food Safety

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