Photo: Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate will be conducting tests of a new bioterror sensing system in Boston’s Subway system soon. After the subways close at night, a team of researchers will release dead bacteria, of the species Bacillus subtilis, which is non-toxic and doesn’t cause disease even when alive.This common, food-grade bacterium is found everywhere in soil, water, air, and decomposing plant matter.
They will use the dead bacteria in a simulated biological weapon attack at several stations to test a new set of bioterror sensors. They will use the sensors to monitor the spread of the bacteria through the air in the subway tunnels over the next six months to see if these contractor-created technologies are up to snuff.
The sensors should be able to identify and confirm the release of biological agents within minutes of release, a statement from the Directorate said.
“While there is no known threat of a biological attack on subway systems in the United States, the S&T testing will help determine whether the new sensors can quickly detect biological agents in order to trigger a public safety response as quickly as possible,” Anne Hultgren, manager of the project, called “detect to protect” or D2P, said in a statement.
The proposed plan was posted for public comment for 45 days, and a public forum was held to discuss the idea before they proceeded with the plan, and no issues were raised.
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