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Downtown Austin closed after dead birds found

Houston Chronicle | January 8, 2007

AUSTIN — More than 10 blocks in downtown Austin leading up to the Capitol were shut down early today after officials found up to 60 dead grackles, sparrows and pigeons in the area, although the stretch was expected to reopen soon after no dangerous chemicals were detected.

"We do not feel there is a threat to the public health,'' said Adolfo Valadez, the medical director for Austin and Travis County Health and Human Services. The area was expected to reopen by noon, he added.

The closure - on the eve of the state's 80th legislative session - came after 40 to 60 carcasses were found overnight along Congress between Sixth and Eighth streets. There were no reports of humans harmed.

Police closed the main north-south route through downtown and all side streets for a block to the east and west while crews tested for environmental contaminants or gas or chlorine leaks, Austin Police spokeswoman Toni Chovanetz said.

Chovanetz would not discuss details or speculate on what could have killed the birds. She said it was the first time she could remember a large swath of downtown being shut down because of dead birds.

Grackles are common in Austin and considered a loud, messy nuisance. Like pigeons, they loiter in trees and structures, indiscriminately soiling anything or anyone unlucky enough to be below.

Valadez said at least one carcass was being tested locally and others were being shipped to the Centers for Disease Control and Texas A&M University for testing. It could be days or even weeks before the test results come back, he said.

Valadez said the tests will be looking for signs of poisoning or viral infections - though he said officials do not think bird flu is involved.

6th WMD Civil Support Team

Global Security.org | January 8, 2007

The 6th Civil Support Team (WMD) is an immediately deployable, active duty, Texas National Guard unit, created in 1999 to respond to terrorist incidents involving Weapons of Mass Destruction, as well as other disasters and catastrophic events, both natural and man made.

The 6th CST represents both Federal and State government by providing support to local emergency responders in their efforts to save lives and mitigate property damage.

The 6th CST is composed of 22 active duty soldiers and airmen, 15 of whom maintain an active alert posture twenty four hours a day, seven days a week.

The WMD Civil Support Team deploys to an area of operations to:

  • Assess a suspected nuclear, biological, chemical, or radiological event in support of the local incident commander.
  • Advise civilian responders regarding appropriate actions, and
  • Facilitate requests for assistance to expedite arrival of additional state and DOD assets to help save lives, prevent human suffering, and mitigate great property damage.

The Team members train to deploy, by ground or air, within one hour of notification. The Team's goal is to arrive on-scene within a total of four hours. The unit and all its equipment can deploy by Air Force C-130 aircraft, or by utilizing the Team's own organic ground transportation assets, all of which are equipped for emergency response.

The 6th CST normally operates as a State asset, under the command and control of The State Governor, but upon deployment, the unit provides direct support to a civilian Incident Commander (IC).

The 6th CST supports local emergency responders (Fire, Police and EMS), as well as State and Federal agencies such as the TNRCC, FBI, EPA and FEMA.

Operations personnel are qualified at the "Incident Command" level of training.

The unit provides its own organic decontamination operations to support its ongoing Chemical/Biological and Radiological Surveys and assessments.

The 6th CST is capable of providing Command and Control assistance to the Incident Commander, together with information technology through the use of sophisticated, state of the art, communications equipment housed in the Unified Command Suite (UCS).

The Mobile Analytical Lab System (MALS) is utilized to perform chemical, radiological and biological analysis of samples provided by entry teams. The MALS is based on a gas chromatograph/mass spectrometer system able to identify125,000 organic substances. This system, comprised of a Multi-tube Thermal Description Unit (MTDU), along with chemical analysis computer hardware and software is mounted together with a Bio-Level III glove box, Fluorescent Microscope and other sophisticated laboratory equipment in a temperature-controlled vehicle with self-contained power generating capacity.



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