Wednesday, December 19, 2001

City & County of Honolulu

One set of anthrax testing equipment is installed in the Emergency Medical Services Mobile Environmental Laboratory.

City gets new anthrax testing
tools for water, air

By Nelson Daranciang

Armed with new laboratory equipment, the city has been testing Oahu water supplies for anthrax and other biological warfare agents and soon will begin testing air samples at major public events, officials said.

The city received two sets of the new equipment in the past month. The equipment can perform a DNA test similar to what the Navy has used to test suspected anthrax samples.

One set of test equipment is being used by the Honolulu Board of Water Supply. The other is in a converted Handi-Van.

The Board of Water Supply has tested water supplies for about a week and will "conduct numerous sampling throughout the water system," said Gary Ishikawa, chief of operations.

Mayor Jeremy Harris declined to say what events would be subject to air sampling.

The mobile laboratory will be used in conjunction with the 12 field-testing units the city began using two months ago, officials said. It will be deployed when a field test detects the presence of anthrax or other biological weapons. The Water Board's laboratory will serve as a backup.

The DNA test can confirm the presence of anthrax in less than two hours. The handheld field-test units yield results in 15 minutes but are not as reliable.

Police shut down a portion of downtown Honolulu to traffic for several hours on Oct. 24 after fire officials recorded two false positive readings for the presence of anthrax using a field-test unit.

Each new set of test equipment, which fits into a case the size of a regular suitcase, costs $65,000.

The number of antrhax calls is down to two to four a day from around 30, said Honolulu Fire Chief Atillio Leonardi.

City & County of Honolulu

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