Customs Makes X-ray Impact Assessment Available

The draft addresses the potential impacts from the installation and operation of LEXRIS at various operational areas throughout the United States
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The U.S. government has made available the draft of an environmental impact assessment of low-energy X-ray devices that are to be used to scan vehicles passing through points of entry into the United States.

On Jan. 18, 2012, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) posted a document on the Federal Register—Notice of Availability of the Draft Programmatic Environmental Assessment for the Deployment and Operation of Low Energy X-Ray Inspection Systems (LEXRIS) at U.S. Customs and Border Protection Operational Areas—and CBP is seeking comments on the draft assessment.

“A draft programmatic environmental assessment (PEA)” for the deployment and operation of LEXRIS at CBP operational areas has been completed and is available for public comment, CBP says.

The draft PEA addresses the potential impacts from the installation and operation of LEXRIS at various CBP operational areas throughout the United States for the purpose of conducting non-intrusive inspections, CBP says. Evaluations were conducted on various resources present at operational areas, including on the climate, soils, water quality, air quality, vegetation, wildlife, noise, infrastructure, aesthetics and radiological health and safety, the agency says.

“The purpose of deploying and operating LEXRIS is to non-intrusively scan vehicles for the presence of contraband, including weapons of mass destruction, explosives, and illicit drugs,” CBP says. Use of LEXRIS at U.S. ports of entry directly supports CBP’s mission of securing the U.S. borders and homeland from terrorists and other threats while simultaneously facilitating legitimate trade and travel by assisting CBP personnel in preventing contraband, including illegal drugs and terrorist weapons, from entering the United States, the agency says.

CBP says, “two different LEXRIS models are available” including a mobile system that is mounted on a truck or van type platform and can be driven along side a parked vehicle scanning the vehicle as it drives by. The driver and any passengers will exit the vehicle to be scanned and be escorted outside the controlled area before the vehicle is scanned.

The other system is a stationary, portal configuration that will be installed along an existing traffic lane. “Vehicles will be scanned as they are driven through the portal,” and the “occupants of the vehicle will have the option of remaining in the vehicle while the driver drives it through the portal or exiting the vehicle and having CBP personnel drive it through the portal,” CBP says.

LEXRIS is needed to fill a unique capability to detect objects that are not effectively visualized by other non-intrusive inspection technologies currently used by CBP, the agency says. In addition, the reason CBP specifically wants LEXRIS is it “gives a clear image of objects in the vehicle, including objects that may be hidden in fenders, tires, trunks, gas tanks and under hoods.” LEXRIS provides CBP personnel with information about what may be encountered during a manual search and, in some cases, will eliminate the need for CBP personnel to manually enter vehicles to search for contraband. As a result, LEXRIS will increase the safety of CBP personnel.

The deadline for comments is Feb. 17, 2012.