EPA Hosts Disaster Clean-Up Experts

Nov 5, 2013

Michael Shannon, an U.S. Coast Guard marine science technician, takes a water sample at a Sewaren, N.J., oil refinery, which leaked after Hurricane Sandy struck the region 2012. Scientists who help design mass disaster response tools are meeting at RTP this week.
Credit U.S. Department of Defense

Some of the country’s top scientists in mass-disaster clean-up are meeting in Research Triangle Park this week to talk about decontaminating materials laced with biological, chemical and radiological agents. 

The gathering, scheduled for today and tomorrow at the EPA’s facilities in RTP, is expected to include about 200 scientists who design response tools and the professionals from agencies such as FEMA that use them, said Gregory Sayles, who heads the EPA’s National Homeland Security Research Center.

  Many tools in use today were designed after 9/11 in the event of a terrorist attack but have been applied in clean-up for natural or domestic disasters, Sayles explained. Programs the EPA has designed include DeconST, used to help clean up biological contamination from substances such as anthrax, and I-WASTE, used to help sort contamination after events such as Hurricane Sandy.

 "Some of this stuff is relatively clean, and can be hauled away in a normal way. Some of it is contaminated," Sayls said. "And so this tool [I-WASTE] really helps decision makers manage cleaning up large amounts of waste and to really look for the best solutions for it."