U.S. Water News Online
LAS VEGAS -- Terrorists discussed recruiting treatment
plant employees to poison drinking water supplies in major urban
areas prior to the Sept. 11 attacks, according to a federal bulletin
obtained by a Nevada newspaper.
A federal bulletin distributed nationwide to law enforcement
agencies and water facility operators advised several protective
measures to secure facilities against two scenarios, the Las Vegas
The newspaper withheld details of the scenarios and the 15
protective measures federal Homeland Security officials advocated for
guarding against them, citing public safety concerns. It said Nevada
law enforcement officials and water treatment officials advised that
describing the measures would help terrorists.
The document did not offer evidence of an imminent credible or
specific threat, or information that operatives were dispatched to
the United States after the 2001 terrorist attacks to carry out such
a plot, the Review-Journal said.
"It's just an alert to be vigilant about in-house employees at
these facilities," said Jim O'Brien, director of emergency management
for Clark County, which includes Las Vegas.
Southern Nevada Water Authority spokesman Vince Alberta told The
Associated Press that the alert was distributed on a Web site
maintained by the Information Sharing and Analysis Center, a network
involving water and wastewater treatment utilities and federal
"We've seen the document," Alberta said, adding that while the
warning was taken seriously, "There was not anything specifying Las
Vegas per se."
One unnamed place in the northeastern United States was mentioned
as an example, but Alberta said there was no urban area or town
The Review-Journal reported the four-page bulletin detailed
unnamed terrorists' discussions monitored by the government that
focused on the possibility of poisoning drinking water during the
"To accomplish this objective, they discussed recruiting insiders
to work with them," the document said, adding that terrorists thought
it would be futile to try to poison a large water reservoir because
of the dilution factor.
The bulletin said the terrorists' discussions showed "a certain
degree of operational sophistication" regarding unsecured water
"Such targeting would be consistent with al-Qaida's stated
objective to cause mass casualties and to disrupt and undermine vital
economic interests in this country," it said.
The Southern Nevada Water Authority, made up of the Las Vegas
area's seven water providers, already had adopted most of the changes
advocated in the bulletin, Alberta said.
He said the water authority spent several million dollars
improving security since the 2001 attacks, and conducted at least two
exercises with federal and county emergency management officials "to
enhance communication, coordination and prevention of potential
The most recent exercise was in April, Alberta said.
In northern Nevada, officials at the Washoe County Department of
Water Resources reacted to the bulletin immediately after receiving
"We have now completed our vulnerability analysis and are
improving security," John Collins, the agency's manager of utility
services, told the Review-Journal. "But we don't think it will apply
to us because it says they're more worried about larger systems."
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