FEDERAL AGENCIES BEGIN BIOTERRORISM TEST 



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Last Updated

26 Mar 2003

Source: Newsday, March 25, 2003

Federal Agencies Begin Bioterrorism Test

By JENNIFER L. BROWN, Associated Press Writer

GOLDSBY, Okla. -- A crop-duster sprayed a harmless substance above a field of cattle and oil pumps Monday in a test to see if weather radar could detect a bioterrorist attack.

It was the first spray of a three-week Army test over central Oklahoma. The plane will make 261 runs, dropping grain alcohol, clay dust and a mix of water and polyethylene glycol -- a common ingredient in lotions and mascara.

The harmless materials were chosen to produce a mist resembling the airborne particles that might be produced by a bioterrorism attack.

The test, taking place in Oklahoma because of the state's advanced weather radar system, will help Army and Environmental Protection Agency scientists determine how well radar can detect such materials.

The new system would keep track of small planes and tiny puffs of particles that typical radars ignore. It will take weeks to analyze the data and determine how successful the test was, Army officials said.

The goal is to develop computer technology for a nationwide bioterrorism detection system, said Robert Lyons, with the Army's nuclear, biological and chemical detection program. The government hopes to install high-tech software in about 150 radar stations across the country.

The EPA has conducted similar tests in Maryland, Utah and Florida since early 2001, before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The government planned to start the test Feb. 24. But after residents of Goldsby complained, officials re-evaluated the program and deleted two of the originally planned test materials -- powdered egg whites and a sterilized natural pesticide. Those materials were sprayed over the ocean near Key West, Fla., last April with no ill effects.