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About Us

After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 and the subsequent mailing of letters containing anthrax spores, EPA was assigned homeland security responsibilities. Named the lead federal agency responsible for water security and remediation following an attack on indoor or outdoor areas, EPA develops and delivers reliable, responsive expertise and products based on scientific research and evaluations of technology.


Following the terrorist events of September 11, 2001 and the mailing of anthrax contaminated letters later that year, EPA's mission broadened to include protecting human health and the environment from the effects of biological, chemical, and radiological contamination (CBR) due to homeland security events. EPA produced the Strategic Plan for Homeland Security in order to identify the specific actions need to handle its expanded mission to prevent, prepare for, and recover from terrorist threats and incidents.

Homeland Security Research Areas

Securing and Sustaining Water Systems Logo

Securing and sustaining water systems focuses on developing tools and applications to assist states, local municipalities, and utilities design and operate resilient systems.

Some of the research includes:

  • developing products that can provide warnings to water utilities in the event of terrorist attacks with CBR agents
  • developing or testing methods for decontaminating water and wastewater infrastructure more rapidly and economically
  • integrating water security technologies into drinking water distribution systems
Characterizing Contamination and Determining  Risk Image

Characterizing contamination and determining risk focuses on developing as well as evaluating or validating sampling, sample preparation protocols, and analytical methods for CBR agents. Risk communication tools are developed and evaluated.

Some of the research includes:

  • evaluating sampling and analytical methods that would be used by multiple laboratories during a homeland security emergency
  • providing the scientific basis for establishing provisional exposure levels
  • developing techniques for communicating risk to many different audiences by using structured and informative messages that have been researched and tested
Remediating Indoor and Outdoor Environments Image

Remediating indoor and outdoor environments focuses on developing and testing tools, applications, and methods to remediate sites contaminated during a CBR attack.

Some of the research includes:

  • evaluating methods for effective decontamination of many types of surfaces that have been contaminated with CBR agents
  • investigating contaminant behavior under different environmental conditions
  • identifying methods for disposing of contaminated materials generated during site cleanup


EPA is the lead federal agency for water security and works with many partners as detailed in the Water Sector-Specific Plan: An Annex to the National Infrastructure Protection Plan (PDF) (88 pp, 1.4 MB, About PDF).

The National Infrastructure Protection Plan was written and continues to be updated, along with the sector-specific plans, to provide a homeland security framework that agencies can use to identify, prioritize, and protect critical infrastructure and key resources.

Many of EPA’s additional homeland security research responsibilities come from the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act (Bioterrorism Act of 2002) and several homeland security presidential directives (HSPD) (PDF) (161 pp, 451 K, About PDF).

  • HSPD-7, Critical Infrastructure Identification, Prioritization, and Protection, issued December 17, 2003, identifies 17 critical facilities, networks, and key resources (infrastructure) that require action to prevent, deter, and mitigate against the effects of deliberate action to destroy, incapacitate, or exploit them.

  • HSPD-9, Defense of United States Agriculture and Food, issued February 3, 2004, directs EPA to develop a comprehensive and fully coordinated surveillance and monitoring program to provide warning in the event of a terrorist attack using biological, chemical, or radiological contaminants. HSPD-9 also requires the development of a nationwide laboratory network to support the routine monitoring and response requirements of the surveillance and monitoring program.

  • HSPD-10, Biodefense for the 21st Century, issued April 28, 2004, directs EPA, in coordination with other federal agencies, to develop standards, protocols, and capabilities for addressing contamination risks following a biological weapons attack.  EPA is also directed to develop plans for decontamination after an attack, and to survey chemical, biological, and radiological and nuclear laboratory capacity and capabilities in the United States.

  • HSPD-22, is a classified document on domestic chemical defense, which establishes a national policy and directs actions on preventing, protecting, responding to, and recovering from terrorist attacks using toxic chemicals and other incidents involving chemical contamination.



Most of EPA’s homeland security research responsibilities are specified in several Homeland Security Presidential Directives and the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act (Bioterrorism Act of 2002).

EPA’s National Homeland Security Research Center has worked with stakeholders, customers, and a variety of experts to anticipate possible terrorist event scenarios. A scenario of a likely terrorist attack considers a specific type of attack under specific conditions by determining the most likely:

  • timing and sequence of events
  • place of attack
  • chemical, biological, or radiological weapon or weapons to be used

In order to design scientific studies, scenarios have been prioritized based on examining the most probable scenario that could cause widespread or significant harm.

After the most likely scenarios are determined, a knowledge gap analysis is performed to inventory what tools or methodologies are available that can protect against, detect, or recover from an attack, and what additional information or technologies are needed.

Many of the possible threat scenarios that have been already identified formed the basis of research and development activities. The scientific and technical judgment of EPA and staff, along with independent panels of experts such as the National Academies, EPA’s Science Advisory Board, and EPA’s Board of Scientific Counselors is used to review and help prioritize research plans.

Once a set of research and development priorities is developed, it must be aligned with EPA’s homeland security human and financial resources.  Collaborations with other organizations help to leverage both knowledge and resources.

Adjustments to the homeland security research and development program can be made if new information becomes available, or if the United States Congress changes its funding priorities.


EPA’s homeland security research is centrally managed in Cincinnati, Ohio. Other offices and facilities are located in Washington, D.C., Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, and Las Vegas, Nevada. Laboratory facilities are located in Research Triangle Park and Cincinnati.

Research Triangle Park, North Carolina
Research Triangle Park
Research Triangle Park is home to one of EPA's high-bay facilities, capable of accommodating multi-story equipment. The research at this location is conducted in the facility's advanced aerosol and combustion laboratories. EPA recently constructed an air lock chamber capable of strict atmospheric control for testing decontamination methods. Much of the indoor and outdoor decontamination research is conducted at or managed from the Research Triangle Park facility.
Cincinnati, Ohio
In Cincinnati, the National Homeland Security Research Center is located in EPA's Andrew W. Breidenbach Environmental Research Center. Research on water quality sensors and distribution system decontamination is conducted at EPA's Test and Evaluation Facility (T&E), which is located on the grounds of Cincinnati's Mill Creek waste water treatment plant. The facility is a multipurpose, high-bay research facility that contains several pipe loop systems to simulate water distribution systems.


EPA’s homeland security research program organizational structure

Text Version

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