Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Christie Todd Whitman took a tour of a new facility that tests and develops products to guard the country from terrorist attacks in the air and water.
After 9-11, the EPA had to find ways to decontaminate government buildings from anthrax. As Whitman moved through the new RTP facility, researchers tested a laser instrument that detected minute amounts of toxins in the air.
"What you're doing here is giving us the ability to respond quickly and accurately to those kinds of threats," Whitman told the facility workers.
Infrared technology also can be used to monitor the presence of sarin, V-X or mustard gas. A new Bio-Watch Network -- a system of air monitors already placed throughout the country -- acts as an early warning system for such attacks.
"This is about securing the homeland," Whitman said, "and also about giving our military the tools to make sure they're safe when they're overseas and help them do the job that needs to be done."
Thirty-seven projects are now in research and development at the state-of-the-art facility. Whitman will hand the reigns of the work to someone else before summer, but she doesn't expect to notice a difference.
"It's really flattering to think that my leaving might make a difference," she said. "But, frankly, the quality of work is going to be the same. The intensity and the focus of the work is going to be just the same."
Earlier this week, Whitman resigned from the EPA to spend more time with her family. She said the timing allows President George W. Bush time to find a successor before his re-election campaign.
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