U.S. Water News Online
PITTSBURGH -- Security at drinking water treatment plants
used to mean keeping kids from climbing fences, spray-painting
graffiti or breaking windows.
But security has become more complex -- and expensive -- since the
Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, according to the nation's largest water
suppliers, who were required to file vulnerability assessments with
the federal Environmental Protection Agency by March 31.
The assessments require water suppliers to study and identify
possible terrorist or other threats to their systems.
The annual security budget at the Metropolitan Utilities District
in Omaha, Neb., tripled to $750,000 last year and will top $1 million
this year, said Chief Executive Tom Wurtz. The agency supplies about
176,000 water customers in and around Omaha.
``Most utilities had security in place prior to 9-11, but now most
utilities have guards monitoring sophisticated kinds of cameras,
instead of maybe just one guard sitting down at one end of the
property in a guard shack,'' Wurtz said.
``Now, everybody's done a vulnerability assessment and that's a
lot different than trying to keep people off (the property) and catch
Water suppliers with at least 100,000 customers have to file the
EPA assessments by March 31. Those with 50,000 to 99,999 customers
must file by Dec. 31, and those with 3,301 to 49,999 have to file by
Dec. 31, 2004. Those with 3,300 or fewer customers don't have to file
After filing the assessments, water companies have six months to
update their emergency plans to deal with the potential threats they
To ensure security, the EPA will file the assessments at its
Washington, D.C., office, instead of at its 10 regional offices, said
Roy Seneca, of the EPA's Philadelphia office. The records will be in
a secure location and accessible only to workers with special
Generally, water suppliers will say they're improving or starting
to use cyber security, installing devices to more closely monitor the
people and chemical shipments entering their facilities, and adding
more guards, officials said.
The Southern Nevada Water Authority board recently approved
spending $153,000 for private security to patrol Lake Mead, which is
formed by Hoover Dam on the Colorado River. The reservoir is the
primary drinking water source for 1.5 million residents of southern
The Nevada authority had been spending twice as much to pay Las
Vegas police officers overtime for those patrols, said spokesman
Vince Alberta, who wouldn't get more specific about security
``We're looking at everything: from source to treatment to
delivery. Our analysis was thorough -- from lake to tap,'' Alberta
Gregory Tutsock, executive director of the Pittsburgh Water and
Sewer Authority, which has 247,000 customers, kept that agency's
security changes close to the vest. But Tutsock said his agency is
developing a third stage of its security planning process that's not
required by the government: a business recovery plan.
``It will deal with the fiscal realities, the infrastructure,
strategies to restore public confidence'' if service were interrupted
by a terrorist attack or other emergency, Tutsock said. ``We think
it's critical to have a document that guides us through what we'll
have to do to recover.''
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