An official website of the United States government.

This is not the current EPA website. To navigate to the current EPA website, please go to This website is historical material reflecting the EPA website as it existed on January 19, 2021. This website is no longer updated and links to external websites and some internal pages may not work. More information »

Sampling operations following biological incidents

Partners: New York City (NYC) Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) and NYC Transit 

Challenge: The ability to effectively identify and map contaminated areas following a large biological incident within a highly urbanized area in the U.S. (ongoing)

Resource: Technical assistance to evaluate the compatibility of current surface sampling options and analytical methods for Bacillus anthracis in an urban environmentSampling team

“The instant that a biological threat agent incident has been detected, incident commanders will depend on and expect accurate and reliable incident characterization to support informed public health decision making. EPA’s groundbreaking efforts in this regard will prove critical to New York City’s ability to determine the scale and scope of biological incidents rapidly and efficiently.” – NYC DOHMH Bioterrorism Surveillance Coordinator Joel Ackelsberg, MD, MPH

EPA researchers have worked collaboratively with NYC DOHMH and NYC Transit to answer key gaps in capabilities to conduct effective sampling operations following a large biological incident within a highly urbanized area. EPA researchers, in collaboration with these partners, evaluated the compatibility of current surface sampling options, when applied to urbanized outdoor or underground (subway) surfaces, with current analytical methods for Bacillus anthracis. EPA researchers and NYC DOHMHC have also worked collaboratively to determine the potential utility of “Native Air Sampling” approaches, and their compatibility with analysis methods.

Because of this federal-local partnership, NYC personnel actively participate in project update teleconference meetings and provide critical input into the project’s directions. In this way, NYC has access to research outcomes as they develop, and NYC has ensured that the project meets the city’s emergency response needs. Ultimately, the project has resulted in an enhanced ability to conduct sampling and analysis operations for a large urban area following a Bacillus anthracis contamination incident.