VEGA News Item

CBRN and HAZMAT. Devils, Details and Disaster - 06/05/2005
We go delving into decontamination after a chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear "event". A CBRN is treated in a DEFRA consultation as "a deliberate (terrorist) event". A HAZMAT is "an accidental release of hazardous material(s)", which include "those which might be used for terrorist purposes, but also the vast arrays of other substances used in industrial, agricultural, and household processes". We include aftermaths of scourges and pestilences and contaminations resulting from wars and when the earth and waters move by Acts of God.
VEGA comments on a DEFRA consultation on the Government Decontamination Service (GDS), which can be found on www.defra.goc.uk/corporate/consult/closed.

VEGA has been involved with the containment and eradication of epizootics, particularly in the contexts of farming and food production (including water supplies) and the aftermath of epidemics of viral origins (such as influenzas and foot-and-mouth disease), outbreaks of pathogenic bacteria, and of transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs). Persistence of organophosphates, PCBs, PAHs, heavy metals, and mycotoxins in the environment and feed and food chain represent other forms of contamination that engage our endeavours in prevention and reform and reduction. We deal below with questions raised and numbered in DEFRA's consultation (as mentioned above).

Q1. Acts of God, such as tsunamis, floods, hurricanes, droughts and meteorites are forms of terrorism that call for subsequent services of remediation and decontamination common to those expected as a result of the attacks your documents describe. Chronic bad practice may add to these threats in the form of insidious build ups with final eruption in environmental spread. “Slow virus” (such as transmissible enteropathies) threats may linger and other virus and bacterial pathogens may undergo mutations leading to epidemic or even pandemic outbreaks, requiring urgent decontamination in developments of vaccines, rupture of zoonotic transmission, and protection of personnel required to cope with the victims, living and dead, of such developments, which may involve malign human involvements and the need to catch culprits. The Dambusters ploy in WW2 illustrated, in ways both crude on the one hand and elaborated on the other, the possibilities in widespread threats of the age-old pestilence of typhoid and cholera by destruction of water supplies. Such dangers can arise now in the future, especially when the mischief spreads to channels of food supply, communication, and transport, and overcomes local resilience.

Prevention of disasters and practice exercises are essential in keeping a GDS in good condition for eventualities. Some agencies have progressed in such preparation, having suffered painful experience.

Overhaul of veterinary services and recruitment of a corps of a suitably trained “Home Guard” after the BSE and foot-and-mouth disease epidemics indicates competence in dealing with mass vaccinations and slaughter of non-human animals and destruction of seriously contaminated stock. There should still be more involvement of animal welfare organisations than your document indicates.

Provision of stocks of potassium iodide (or iodate) for medical and veterinary decontamination of populations endangered by some types of nuclear fallout must be retained in well-recognised stocks. Movements of affected livestock must be understood and practised, with post-Chernobyl experience well applied. These examples illustrate the need to recognise how the British Isles could respond and depend on events and services outside British sovereignty in communication and rescue equipment. Free trade and shortcomings in traceability invite attempts at various types of mischief, a widespread outbreak of zoonotic salmonellosis originated in changes in the El Niño currents off the western coast of South America, which affected the fish-harvests that provided feed exported to the deep-sea port of Rotterdam, from which consignments are transhipped to other countries and islands in Europe. Widespread outbreaks erupted in poultry consuming contaminated feed. The epidemic was contained and halted. Multi-resistance (to antibiotics) presents more virulent bacterial dangers spreading widely as threats to human and non-human animals and the intensification of international food-production emphases the need for constant vigilance, assessment, and preparation of means of decontamination. These aims require close collaboration of scientific disciplines and GDSs, as well as of the appropriately alerted and trained rescue services.

There is also a need to survey conduits of national power, fuel, food, electricity, gas etc to ensure that the alternatives and switching can avoid widespread failures and concatenations of breakdowns lacking scope for improvisation and alternatives. Major disruptions of earth and soils in dam-building and in quarrying and brick-making, as well as other industrial activity and bad practice lead to geological mischief with consequences in the release of toxic minerals (e.g. fluoride) into soils and thence into water-courses, pastures, and agricultural and horticultural land, as well as the atmosphere, all of which must be decontaminated on a widespread scale. Industry releases other hazardous pollutants and wastes that contaminate land and render it useless for habitation or food production unless it can be restored by means such as bioremediation, which depends on beneficial applications of microbiology.

Collation of the economics, logistics, and politics of essential services and resources and intelligence on the traceability of such factors are necessary in ensuring sound GDS.

Q3. We cannot comment on this question

Q4. We would like to be kept in touch with developments by all the methods you describe, except for a newsletter.

Q5. This question does not apply to our status or means.

Q6. We might be able to engage in non-commercial discussion and advice, e.g. in provision of feed and food and beverage supplies for populations with special requirements and aversions and nutritional and medical care.  

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