Utility and Laboratory Preparedness Tools from EPA’s Water Laboratory Alliance Team: Know Your Options

Government Public Health and Private Environmental Laboratory Partnerships
Oral Presentation

Prepared by Y. Termeh-Zonoozi, L. P. Mapp
US Environmental Protection Agency, 1200 Pennsylvania Ave NW, District of Columbia, Washington, DC, 20004, United States

Contact Information: termeh-zonoozi.yasmin@epa.gov; 202-564-0551


As part of its mission to protect human health and the environment, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) developed the Water Laboratory Alliance (WLA), a nationwide network of laboratories capable of supporting the Water Sector contamination response. The EPA WLA Team helps utilities, laboratories, and state and local governments prepare for analytical response to water contamination events involving chemical, biological and radiochemical contaminants.

The WLA Team has developed numerous tools and resources to help stakeholders prepare for water contamination incidents. During an emergency, it is important to be ready to implement critical steps as quickly as possible, and disseminate accurate information to the public. The WLA Team helps ensure that stakeholders know what to do before and during incidents to ensure an efficient and effective response when water security is threatened.

Recognizing that time and resource constraints may limit preparedness efforts and that Water Sector stakeholders may not know where to begin in assessing their ability to respond to a water contamination incident, the WLA Team created the Analytical Preparedness Self-Assessment (APS) Tool. A variety of stakeholders, including drinking water and wastewater utilities; utility, state, federal and commercial laboratories; emergency managers; and local and state governments can benefit from the WLA APS. Stakeholders complete the self-assessment by responding to questions designed to evaluate their organization’s preparedness and determine their previous experience with EPA water security tools. The APS then provides a customized list of recommendations and links to resources, which reduces the time required for stakeholders to establish a path forward for enhancing preparedness and ensures that important resources are not overlooked.

The EPA WLA Team, along with EPA’s Office of Emergency Management, developed the Water Laboratory Alliance Response Plan (WLA-RP). The WLA-RP provides a comprehensive, national approach to support utilities and others in coordinating laboratory response to water contamination, especially for incidents that may require additional analytical support, and a broader response than a typical utility or state laboratory can provide. To implement WLA-RP best practices and enhance Water Sector communication, EPA’s WLA Team conducts Analytical Preparedness Full Scale Exercises (AP-FSEs) in multi-regional and utility-led formats. A WLA AP-FSE is an exercise designed to test the plans, procedures, resources, tools and personnel needed to coordinate analytical support effectively for a water contamination incident. At a minimum, these exercises include utilities and their support laboratories. The exercises may also involve other Response Partners such as federal agencies, state regulatory agencies, as well as state and local public health and emergency management agencies.

Based on the success of, and interest in, the full-scale exercises, the EPA WLA Team developed the AP-FSE Toolkit. It is designed to help utilities, laboratories, and state and local agencies plan and conduct their own full-scale exercises. This interactive toolkit provides comprehensive documentation that can be leveraged and tailored based on each organization's needs. The Toolkit:
• Includes two water contamination scenarios: a chemical pesticide (dicrotophos) and a pathogen (E.coli O157:H7)
• Contains associated documentation for each scenario that is designed to be scalable to meet participant objectives
• Scenarios can be expanded to incorporate operational or field components, in addition to laboratory analyses

The AP-FSE Toolkit was recently posted and the WLA Team routinely offers training on its use.

EPA’s sampling guidance for unknown contaminants provides utilities, emergency responders and laboratories with recommended procedures for conducting routine and baseline monitoring in response to water contamination incidents, and sampling in support of remediation or decontamination. The guidance covers collection, storage, preservation and transport of potentially contaminated water samples and provides recommendations for better supporting the detection and identification of many types of contaminants in drinking water.

• WLA Analytical Preparedness Self-Assessment https://www.epa.gov/waterlabnetwork/wla-analytical-preparedness-self-assessment
• Analytical Preparedness Full-Scale Exercise (AP-FSE) Toolkit
• Plan a Laboratory Full-Scale Exercise (video)