Large-Scale Urban Decontamination; Developments, Historical Examples and Lessons Learned

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Recent terrorist threats and actual events have lead to a renewed interest in the technical field of large scale, urban environment decontamination. One of the driving forces for this interest is the real potential for the cleanup and removal of radioactive dispersal device (RDD or “dirty bomb”) residues. In response the U. S. Government has spent many millions of dollars investigating RDD contamination and novel decontamination methodologies. Interest in chemical and biological (CB) cleanup has also peaked with the threat of terrorist action like the anthrax attack at the Hart Senate Office Building and with catastrophic natural events such as ... continued below

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Demmer, Rick February 1, 2007.

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Recent terrorist threats and actual events have lead to a renewed interest in the technical field of large scale, urban environment decontamination. One of the driving forces for this interest is the real potential for the cleanup and removal of radioactive dispersal device (RDD or “dirty bomb”) residues. In response the U. S. Government has spent many millions of dollars investigating RDD contamination and novel decontamination methodologies. Interest in chemical and biological (CB) cleanup has also peaked with the threat of terrorist action like the anthrax attack at the Hart Senate Office Building and with catastrophic natural events such as Hurricane Katrina. The efficiency of cleanup response will be improved with these new developments and a better understanding of the “old reliable” methodologies. Perhaps the most interesting area of investigation for large area decontamination is that of the RDD. While primarily an economic and psychological weapon, the need to cleanup and return valuable or culturally significant resources to the public is nonetheless valid. Several private companies, universities and National Laboratories are currently developing novel RDD cleanup technologies. Because of its longstanding association with radioactive facilities, the U. S. Department of Energy National Laboratories are at the forefront in developing and testing new RDD decontamination methods. However, such cleanup technologies are likely to be fairly task specific; while many different contamination mechanisms, substrate and environmental conditions will make actual application more complicated. Some major efforts have also been made to model potential contamination, to evaluate both old and new decontamination techniques and to assess their readiness for use. Non-radioactive, CB threats each have unique decontamination challenges and recent events have provided some examples. The U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as lead agency for these emergency cleanup responses, has a sound approach for decontamination decision-making that has been applied several times. The anthrax contamination at the U. S. Hart Senate Office Building and numerous U. S. Post Office facilities are examples of employing novel technical responses. Decontamination of the Hart Office building required development of a new approach for high level decontamination of biological contamination as well as techniques for evaluating the technology effectiveness. The World Trade Center destruction also demonstrated the need for, and successful implementation of, appropriate cleanup methodologies. There are a number of significant lessons that can be gained from a look at previous large scale cleanup projects. Too often we are quick to apply a costly “package and dispose” method when sound technological cleaning approaches are available. Understanding historical perspectives, advanced planning and constant technology improvement are essential to successful decontamination.

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  • Waste Management 07,Tucson, AZ,02/28/2007,03/02/2007

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  • Report No.: INL/CON-06-11659
  • Grant Number: DE-AC07-99ID-13727
  • Office of Scientific & Technical Information Report Number: 911958
  • Archival Resource Key: ark:/67531/metadc885444

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Office of Scientific & Technical Information Technical Reports

Reports, articles and other documents harvested from the Office of Scientific and Technical Information.

Office of Scientific and Technical Information (OSTI) is the Department of Energy (DOE) office that collects, preserves, and disseminates DOE-sponsored research and development (R&D) results that are the outcomes of R&D projects or other funded activities at DOE labs and facilities nationwide and grantees at universities and other institutions.

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  • February 1, 2007

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  • Sept. 22, 2016, 2:13 a.m.

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  • Nov. 7, 2016, 6:13 p.m.

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Demmer, Rick. Large-Scale Urban Decontamination; Developments, Historical Examples and Lessons Learned, article, February 1, 2007; [Idaho Falls, Idaho]. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc885444/: accessed April 25, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.