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Decontamination of Bacillus Spores from Drinking Water Infrastructure

EPA Homeland Security Research Program studies methods to make water supply safe after bioterrorism event

Credit: Shutterstock, modified

A new report released this week by the Environmental Protection Agency’s Homeland Security Research program summarizes the results of decontamination experiments in the event of intentional contamination of water infrastructure with a simulated bioterrorism agent.

The EPA’s Water Security Test Bed (WSTB) experiments focused on removing and remediating Bacillus globigii spores adhered to the inner surface of 8-inch water pipes. Bacillus globigii spores are a non-pathogenic surrogate for Bacillus anthracis, which is the causative agent of anthrax.

Decontamination was undertaken with a technique known as pigging, or physical scouring of the inner pipe surface, followed by disinfection with free chlorine.

The research was conducted in partnership with the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) to build the Water Security Test Bed (WSTB) at the INL test site outside of Idaho Falls, Idaho.

The WSTB is constructed of real drinking water system pipes and therefore supports realistic conditions for research projects including biofilms, water quality, sensors, and homeland security related contaminants.

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First responders and decision makers managing a water contamination event can use data in this report to more effectively make decision about decontamination water infrastructure.

EPA’s Homeland Security Research Program focuses on the following areas:

The program will host the annual EPA International Decontamination Research and Development Conference 19-21 Nov 2019 in Norfolk, Va.

Szabo, J., J. Hall, AND J. Goodrich. Decontamination of Bacillus Spores from Drinking Water Infrastructure with Physical Removal (Pigging) and Assessment of Pipe Relining Technologies. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, DC, EPA/600/R-19/002, 2019.

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