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As Prepared for Administrator Johnson, Governor’s Summit: Utah Plans for Pandemic Influenza, Salt Lake City, UT

    Thank you, Mr. Secretary, for that introduction and for your leadership in helping our federal, state, and local partners prepare and protect their residents in the event of a human influenza pandemic.

    EPA plays an important supporting role under the National Response Plan in both avian flu and pandemic influenza preparedness. Today I would like to briefly outline EPA’s support role as our nation prepares for avian influenza and the potential for a pandemic influenza.

    EPA is actively involved in preparedness planning to respond to an avian influenza outbreak. As requested by the White House Homeland Security Council, EPA was a partner of the interagency effort conducted by USDA, HHS, DHS and DoD to complete the “Federal Food and Agriculture Decontamination and Disposal Roles and Responsibilities” document. This first-of-its-kind planning document describes the federal departmental roles, responsibilities and capabilities for responding to contamination of animals, food and crops.

    In addition, EPA is participating in the effort to develop the “Interagency Playbook Against Domestic H5N1.” This government-wide document will lay out the plans to effectively respond to the introduction of highly pathogenic influenza in birds or other animals in the U.S.

    EPA is prepared to support our partners as the nation readies itself for an avian and a potential human pandemic influenza outbreak.

    Specifically, EPA’s responsibilities are:
    · A support role to USDA and the Department of the Interior in the event of an avian influenza outbreak in the poultry industry or among wild bird populations;
    · A support role to HHS in the event of a human pandemic; and
    · A lead federal role in supporting the protection of drinking water and wastewater critical infrastructure.

    EPA’s plans and preparations for the arrival of the H5N1 strain of highly pathogenic avian influenza virus are an extension of the Agency’s core mission. As part of EPA’s normal statutory responsibilities, we routinely advise our state and local partners on issues such as disposal and decontamination options, as well as the safety of drinking water supplies. As America prepares for avian flu and the potential for a human pandemic, EPA is preparing to support our partners on a national scale.

    EPA routinely plays a support role to USDA and DOI in containment and eradication efforts involving animals. EPA is prepared to support USDA in its efforts to aggressively deal with a highly pathogenic avian influenza virus outbreak in our poultry industry, and to support DOI in its efforts to respond to an outbreak in our wild bird populations.

    Upon the request of USDA or DOI, EPA is prepared to provide advice on a range of options available for the disposal of poultry and wild birds. EPA’s state counterparts have the delegated authority to implement municipal solid waste management programs, and EPA is encouraging them to identify potential disposal options in their states and resolve any issues associated with the potential use of those facilities.

    EPA is also prepared to support USDA, DOI and HHS in their efforts to clean-up contaminated agricultural and food-related facilities. In the event of a human pandemic contamination, EPA is prepared to provide technical assistance on pesticide uses against avian and human influenza viruses. By working with USDA, HHS and the private sector, EPA is prepared to assist with identifying suitable and available antimicrobial and other pesticides to be used for treatment and decontamination of pathogens as appropriate.

    Access to EPA’s technical assistance on disposal and decontamination issues during an outbreak will be channeled through EPA’s Emergency Operations Center. For example, in the area of disposal, this technical assistance would include scientific advice that could take into account environmental conditions such as proximity to water bodies, streams or wells, physical conditions like soil type and depth, and other factors like weather, the distance required for disposal, the disposal volume, and the potential for secondary environmental impacts such as odors.

    In the area of decontamination, EPA’s pesticide registration program currently lists over 90 antimicrobial pesticide products registered for use against avian influenza A viruses. These products are typically used by the poultry industry to disinfect their poultry houses, farm premises and equipment. In addition, the Agency’s Web site also lists over 100 products for human influenza A virus to disinfect in hospitals, homes and office buildings. Although none have been registered specifically for use against the strain of highly pathogenic avian influenza virus, EPA believes these products will be effective against H5N1 and other strains.

    EPA has been tasked by the President to serve as the lead federal agency for the nation’s critical water sector. EPA routinely provides our state and local partners with technical assistance and advice in matters regarding the health and safety of their residents’ drinking water. EPA is prepared to support our partners during an avian influenza outbreak by providing expertise regarding surface and ground waters, and the effectiveness of drinking water treatment.

    In the event of long-term social distancing due to a potential human pandemic, EPA is prepared to aid the drinking water sector by continuing to provide infrastructure protection expertise, and the promotion of mutual aid compacts among drinking water utilities.

    It is uncertain whether the current strain of avian flu virus in other countries will lead to a human pandemic. But just like you, EPA is working on its own plan to ready itself for a potential pandemic so we can prepare our own employees, and ensure we can continue to provide the support functions I have discussed here today.

    EPA is prepared to support our federal, state, local and industry partners to minimize the possibility for both the spread of the H5N1 strain of highly pathogenic avian influenza virus among poultry and wild bird populations, as well as the potential for a human-to-human transmission.

    The preparation and education that is occurring here in Utah, and throughout the states and communities across the nation, will help ensure a coordinated national response.

    Thank you.

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