EPA's role in BioWatch significantly reduced

The role of the Environmental Protection Agency in the BioWatch program has been significantly reduced by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Inspector General following a recent review.

The Department of Homeland Security has assumed control for the major components of BioWatch that the EPA was responsible for following the review, which significantly reduced the EPA's role from where it was set during a 2005 review.

The EPA will no longer be tasked with the sampling portion of the program or the issuance of grants to state and local air monitoring agencies to conduct daily monitoring activities.

Filter collection and analysis will now be performed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as local public health labs.

At its introduction in 2003, the BioWatch program designated the EPA's Office of Air and Radiation with responsibilities that were a crucial part of the BioWatch program. Among its responsibilities were monitor deployment, site security, oversight and assessment of monitor technology.

The EPA was found to have not provided adequate oversight of the sampling operations to ensure quality assurance guidance was adhered to, the OIG's 2005 report said, which could potentially affect the quality of the samples.

In Fiscal Years 2004 and 2005, the EPA received $26.8 million from the DHS for its BioWatch activities. For the period between January 2009 and January 2010, the EPA received $780,000.