Central Mineral and Environmental Resources Science Center
The USGS can play an important and appropriate role in rapid characterization and analysis of atmospheric particulates and other contaminants generated by extreme environmental events, such as wildfires, dust storms, volcanic eruptions, chemical releases, and others. In contrast to the traditional HAZMAT activities undertaken by other agencies such as EPA and FEMA (which are more geared toward identifying contaminants, measuring their concentration, estimating potential health effects, and performing remedial or mitigation actions), the USGS niche is more appropriately to collect and interpret data on the environmental processes that act upon the contaminants, and the processes by which the contaminants may be taken up by humans, wildlife, and other organisms. The need for and appropriateness of this USGS role was readily demonstrated by the participation of scientists from the MRP-funded Mineral Dusts and Human Health project (the precursor of the current project) in the rapid characterization and analysis of dusts generated by the World Trade Center (WTC) collapse.
This task investigated more fully the need for (and help define an appropriate role for) the USGS in rapid characterization and analysis of atmospheric particulates and other contaminants generated by extreme environmental events. The primary objective of this task was to engage other Federal (and, as appropriate State and local) agencies in discussions that help define an appropriate USGS role in a process-oriented approach to assessing atmospheric particulates and other contaminants generated in extreme events. A secondary objective was to test equipment and methods already developed as part of the Mineral Dusts and Human health project to determine their application in a small-scale response effort such as a wildfire or seasonal dust storm.