The Regional Drinking Water Laboratory Response Preparedness Project develops region-specific plans for response to potential contamination of the drinking water supply. Launched by the Water Security Division of the US Environmental Protection Agency in 2006, the project connects EPA regional laboratories, state public health and environmental laboratories, and major drinking water utility laboratories to improve laboratory response at the local and national level.

The regional plans help laboratories to determine how samples will be transported, the type of analyses to be performed and how data will be collected and shipped. 

APHL's Support      

APHL is working with EPA to offer a series of online web casts, audio conferences and training opportunities for environmental laboratories. These activities provide up-to-date information about the project and prepare environmental laboratories to respond to drinking water emergencies. APHL is also working to bring together federal agencies and state environmental laboratories to develop response plans.

As a hypothetical, teenagers in Vermont could decide to pour green dye and 20 pounds of kitty litter into a local reservoir. After noticing the green water, residents contact local officials who will alert the state laboratory. To identify the contaminant, the laboratory would need to test thousands of samples in addition to performing normal daily functions. Vermont laboratory officials can refer to their regional response plan for guidance on obtaining assistance from neighboring New England laboratories.

4 Phases 

The Regional Laboratory Response Preparedness Project consists of four phases:
1. development of a response plan template
2. customized plans for each region
3. regional simulation of a hypothetical emergency scenario
4. functional exercises in each region.

During functional exercises, participants test the strengths and weaknesses of their regional plan by responding to a fictional emergency. They also transport samples to regional laboratories, test samples, analyze results and collect and send data.

Today, the Water Laboratory Alliance and Environmental Laboratory Response Network continues connecting state and local laboratories with new exercises, trainings and information dissemination.

For more information, contact Sarah Wright, MS, senior specialist, Environmental Health, 240.485.2730, sarah.wright@aphl.org.