Alion Science and Technology Corp. of McLean won a five-year, $49.6 million contract from the Environmental Protection Agency to provide technical support in developing methods to determine air quality and assess the effect of atmospheric pollutants and other toxic materials on human health.
Under the contract, Alion will conduct laboratory and field studies to measure atmospheric particles that affect air quality and human health. The company is performing its research at the EPA and Alion facilities in Research Triangle Park, N.C., and in field studies in various cities, said Chris Amos, Alion's senior vice president and manager of the company's technology solutions group.
At Research Triangle Park, Alion places mannequins that can simulate human breathing in wind tunnels to see how particles in moving air collect in and on them. A filter inside each mannequin collects aerosols or small particles the air, while outside instruments measure air pressure, temperature and small particles on the mannequin's clothing.
Alion also recently did a field study in Detroit, where volunteers, not mannequins, wore "collectors" on special jackets as they went about their daily routines. The collectors -- small battery-operated fans that suck in small amounts of air and trap air particles in a filter -- measured the atmospheric elements to which the volunteers were exposed.
Some of the potentially hazardous materials that the Alion tests collect include emissions from diesel exhausts; various volatile organic compounds, such as dry-cleaning fluids; and industrial byproducts, Amos said.
As part of the contract work, Alion also will write the simulation program that analyzes the test results. The program combines computational fluid dynamics, a simulation of the flow of air around a solid body, with how humans breathe air in and out and a statistical model that measures the variability of particulate concentrations in air, Amos said.
Alion's project is not connected to the controversy surrounding EPA testing that exposed human subjects to toxic chemicals to determine whether to approve the marketing of pesticides, Amos said. The Senate voted late last month to ban the EPA for one year from conducting pesticide tests on humans and from using data from the tests.
The company's contract work "is aimed at developing ways that measure what's in the environment or predict what happens to something if it is in the environment," Amos said.
Alion is an employee-owned technology solutions company that provides services for the Defense Department, civilian government agencies and the commercial sector. It employs 2,600 people and had 2004 revenue of $282.1 million.
The Alion unit performing the work provided similar services when it was known as ManTech Environmental Technology Inc., a subsidiary of ManTech International Corp of Fairfax. Alion acquired that business unit from ManTech International in February. Research Triangle Institute is the primary subcontractor on the work.
The contract is significant because it "contributes to the understanding of the potential effects of air pollution," Amos said. "That's important to the EPA in terms of setting the regulations that govern air quality, particularly in cities. And that has an impact, in turn, on the quality of life for the people that live in those environments that are being regulated."
Roseanne Gerin is a staff writer with Washington Technology. For more details on this and other technology contracts, go to www.washingtontechnology.com.