When dangerous chemicals are released into the environment, laboratories test the air, water and soil to identify the contaminant and help assess the damages. If a large area has been exposed, a laboratory may need to rely on other laboratories for help.

The Environmental Response Laboratory Network (ERLN), administered by the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Office of Emergency Management, supports laboratories connecting to one another during an emergency. The ERLN helps laboratories prepare for an emergency, respond to environmental contamination and work to clean it up in order to prevent future exposure.

APHL and ERLN

APHL works with the EPA office of Emergency Management to assist with the ERLN. For example, APHL provided input on the ERLN membership criteria, assessed the needs and capabilities of environmental laboratories, and provides training opportunities to help environmental laboratories respond to emergencies. 

"The ERLN comprises a part of the Integrated Consortium of Laboratory Networks that is part of the Department of Homeland Security."

Structure

ERLN member laboratories have different responsibilities based on their everyday functions. Some laboratories routinely check the environment for contamination and send the samples to another laboratory if they cannot rule it out. 

These other laboratories called “confirmatory laboratories” perform more complicated analyses and coordinate necessary emergency response. When confirmatory laboratories need help identifying contaminants they will send samples to laboratories called “reference laboratories.”

Reference laboratories can perform the highest level of analysis on environmental samples and in most cases identify the source of contamination.

ERLN Relationships

The Water Laboratory Alliance is an important part of the ERLN structure. The ERLN relies on the WLA's member laboratories to monitor and respond to drinking water emergencies.

The ERLN works closely with other national laboratory networks, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Laboratory Response Network and the Food and Drug Agency’s Food Emergency Response Network.

For more information contact, MIchael Heintz Senior Specialist, Environmental Laboratories, 240.485.2786, michael.heintz@aphl.org