About EPA

About the National Homeland Security Research Center (NHSRC)

Gregory Sayles, Acting Center Director

Hiba Ernst, Acting Deputy Director for Management

Emily Snyder, Acting Associate Director

What We Do

For over 30 years, EPA and its partners have made great progress toward a cleaner, healthier environment for the American people. Following the terrorist events of September 11, 2001, EPA’s mission expanded beyond safeguarding the natural environment (i.e., air, water, and land) from traditional sources of pollution. On September 24, 2002, EPA announced the formation of the National Homeland Security Research Center (NHSRC) to research answers to science questions related to homeland security.

With the nation under continuing threat from those who seek to harm it, EPA now also has the important responsibility of protecting human health and the environment from the effects of terrorist acts. EPA is the lead federal agency in charge of preparing the water sector for terrorist attacks and the lead agency for decontaminating indoor and outdoor areas following an attack. These areas include buildings, large public spaces such as airports, and wide outdoor areas such as stadiums. Terrorist acts may involve biological, chemical, and radiological agents not previously encountered as environmental pollutants. A thorough understanding of the nature of these agents and their effects on human health is needed. EPA’s expanded role is to provide the critical scientific research necessary to ensure national security in consideration of these new threats.

The NHSRC biologists, chemists, engineers, risk assessors, and numerical modelers who perform research are dedicated to understanding the terrorist threat. Although ideally we would like to prevent all attacks, realistically we must also be able to rapidly detect and contain contamination, mitigate the impacts, and recover from such incidents. 

Learn more about homeland security research at EPA.

Research Projects Managed by NHSRC

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Decontamination and Consequence Management Division (DCMD)

What We Do:

  • Develop and evaluate methods for treatment, decontamination and disposal of contaminants and debris;
  • Develop models that predict how contamination spreads in buildings, outdoor environments and drinking water distribution systems;
  • Develop technologies that immobilize contaminants on surfaces;
  • Develop cost-effective tools and procedures for containment, treatment, decontamination and removal of chemical, biological and radiological agents;
  • Identify and report on the best practices for disposal of debris contaminated with chemical, biological and radiological agents; and
  • Develop decision support tools to provide options for treatment and disposal of debris from homeland security incidents.

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Threat Consequence Assessment Division (TCAD)

What We Do:

  • Research the health effects of chemical, biological and radiological agents;
  • Develop risk-based provisional exposure advisory levels and provide the science to support the development of clean up goals.
  • Develop standardized analytical methods for use by a nationwide network of federal and state laboratories following incidents of national significance.

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Water Infrastructure Protection Division (WIPD)

What We Do:

  • Research on contamination warning systems for water utilities;
  • Evaluate reliable, real-time monitoring systems for detecting contamination in water and wastewater systems;
  • Develop models that integrate existing public health surveillance data and drinking water quality measurements;
  • Develop software tools to assist water utilities in responding to contamination incidents; and
  • Create computer-based tools for estimating potential damage to drinking water and wastewater systems from explosives.

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