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EPA Opens New Environmental Emergency Response Center

Release Date: 02/06/2003
Contact Information:

Dave Ryan 202-564-7827 /

(02/06/03) EPA today opened the Environmental Response Team-West in Las Vegas, a new office with staff who will travel throughout the country to tackle environmental accidents. Several Las Vegas employees have already gone to Texas to assist the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and NASA in shuttle debris recovery. ERT-West, part of EPA’s Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response in Washington, D.C., complements the original EPA ERT office in Edison, N.J., which played such an important role in the World Trade Center cleanup. The Las Vegas facility houses a team of 15 emergency responders who provide 24-hour, immediate technical and scientific expertise in the following areas: air, soil and water monitoring and sampling; assessing and responding to chemical, biological and radiological threats; on-site identification and analysis of contaminated materials; environmental risk assessments; oil spill cleanups; bioremediation; health and safety protocols; and hazardous waste cleanups at extremely complex and sensitive sites. ERT-West will be headed by Dennisses Valdes, formerly head of the Emergency Response Office in EPA’s Region 1 New England office in Boston. On the national level, the EPA Emergency Response Program, active in all 50 states and all our territories and Commonwealths, has worked on over 6,000 hazardous materials releases and oil spills since 1980. These projects include anthrax cleanups in Washington, D.C. and Boca Raton, Fla.; hazardous waste in Love Canal, N.Y.; and the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill. Since Sept. 11, with the Homeland Security Strategic Plan as blueprint, EPA has: hired 50 new on-scene coordinators and 20 new Environmental Response Team members to strengthen the Agency’s ability to respond simultaneously to multiple incidents; provided advanced training and state-of-the-art equipment to state and local employees who must respond to chemical, biological, or radiological incidents; awarded nearly $50 million in grants to the nation’s largest drinking water facilities to assess their vulnerabilities and make security improvements; and has established a Homeland Security Research Center in Cincinnati to coordinate research in building decontamination, rapid risk assessment, drinking water protection and other fields. For more information on environmental emergencies, see: