Small businesses are the backbone of our nation. As small businesses begin to recover from the recession, they are able to help Americans get back to work. Small businesses also play an important part in helping our nation improve its environmental record. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is helping environmentally focused small businesses through the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. The SBIR program recently awarded 11 different companies a total of $2.5 million for environmental research.

These companies focus on eight different areas: monitoring and control of air emissions, biofuels, green buildings, drinking water monitoring, hazardous waste monitoring, water infrastructure, homeland security, nanotechnology, and innovation in manufacturing.

The topic of homeland security and the environment comes up frequently. Naturally, reducing our dependence on foreign oil will help increase our national security but a couple of the programs being funded through the SBIR have a little different focus – identifying and recognizing toxins in our water supply.

AlburtyLab, Inc in Drexel, Missouri received nearly $70,000 to help improve a detection system for known pathogens in drinking water supplies. With this funding, the company plans to create an automated system that rapidly tests and reports the status of water systems.

Massachusetts-based Excellims also received funding for a project that is designed to improve the security of the nation’s water supply. This system will focus on identifying toxic industrial chemicals as well as chemical warfare agents. Ultimately, the device that Excellims is working on can either be used as a stand-alone product for real-time monitoring or be implemented into a full-scale water monitoring system.

For more information on these awards, visit the EPA’s Small Business Innovative Research FY10 Awards list.