U.S. Water News Online
PORTLAND, Ore. -- Terrorists would have a tough time
poisoning the nation's drinking water supplies, and public awareness
since the Sept. 11 attacks makes it even tougher, Environmental
Protection Agency chief Christie Whitman said.
Poisoning the reservoir of a city would require dumping a tanker
truck load of chemicals or biological agent, and heightened public
awareness makes the prospect of anyone getting away with that very
unlikely, Whitman told the annual meeting of the Society of
Since terrorists hijacked airliners and crashed them into the
World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon outside Washington,
D.C., the EPA has been working with the FBI so it can train local law
enforcement agencies on what to watch out for around the nation's
168,000 drinking water systems, Whitman said.
``Poisoning the water supply is an extremely difficult
proposition,'' Whitman said. ``It's gotten much more difficult since
Water supplies around the country have come under new security
since the Sept. 11 attacks. California, for example, has stepped up
patrols of reservoir, aqueducts, and other waterways. A judge
recently delayed enforcing a ruling requiring the city of Akron,
Ohio, to make its main source of drinking water open for recreational
boating, citing the need to guard against terrorist attacks.
Whitman and Interior Secretary Gale Norton were part of a panel
discussion on the Bush administration's environmental policies.
In other matters, Norton said the Bush administration would be
concentrating on finding long-term solutions to the water supply
problems in the Klamath Basin, where Endangered Species Act demands
for endangered fish forced the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to shut off
irrigation water to more than 1,000 farms.
She made a point of saying the Department of Interior would be
paying special attention to suggestions from farmers and ranchers in
``Farmers and ranchers are often the best stewards of the land,''
she said. ``We can achieve more by working with them, and
capitalizing on their intimate knowledge.''
The Klamath Water Users Association, representing farmers
depending on the Klamath Project for irrigation water, recently
dropped out of federal me diation which has brought together
environmentalists, Indian tribes, commercial fishermen, and other
interests to look for long-term solutions on which they all can
The farmers have also filed a $1 billion lawsuit against the
federal government, claiming shutting off the water last summer
violated private property rights guaranteed by the Constitution.
``One thing is clear. There are no easy answers,'' Norton said.
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