Congress Reviews Radiation Lab

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Congress will take a look at whether it's safe to shut down a Manhattan federal lab that monitors radiation levels in the city. First Responders say the facility is essential because of its ability to help with a radioactive dirty bomb. WNYC's Bob Hennelly has more.

REPORTER: Since World War II, the Environmental Measurement Lab in lower Manhattan was the global leader in detecting radiation in the atmosphere. It's quantifying of the radiation dose on the East Coast, after US aboveground atomic bomb testing in the 1950s, led to the call to move such tests below ground. Yet according to Congressional investigators and current staff at the lab, the transfer to the Department of Homeland Security resulted in staff and program cuts. Congressman Brad Miller of North Carolina is chair of the Committee Holding hearings today. He says such moves make New York more vulnerable.

MILLER: This lab’s technology has the 30 monitoring stations that they have on roof tops in Manhattan would identify or spot a dirty bomb before it exploded. That’s probably the leading terrorist threat to Manhattan.

REPORTER: Over the last 20 years, personnel has been cut from 120 to 35 and Congressional fact-finders say some of the labs were actually being de-commissioned. The facility's current director says Homeland Security officials are now re-examining EML's mission and may hire some additional staff. For WNYC, I’m Bob Hennelly.