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Water Infrastructure Safe But Not Invulnerable
The theme at the first-of-its-kind Water Security Summit 2001, sponsored by Haestad Methods on December 3 and 4, was “Prevent. Detect. Respond.” More than 600 water utility and government officials from the United States and 20 other countries gathered in Hartford, Conn., to hear 30 experts discuss vulnerability and security measures for the nation’s water supply infrastructure in the event of a bioterrorist attack. Both speakers and attendees explored water system vulnerabilities; discussed guidelines for implementing security plans; and reviewed existing federal, state and private resources.
Peter S. Beering, Esq., deputy general counsel, IWC Resources Corp., opened the summit by urging professionals to make common sense decisions in response to the threat of a terrorist attack on our water systems. “There is no such thing as an immune jurisdiction,” he said, as he outlined various weapons of mass destruction. “Having this summit and establishing relationships among the many professionals at this conference is one of the first steps in a measured response against the threat of a terrorist attack on our water systems,” Beering continued.
A critical issue identified at the summit is funding for water security. With 168,000 public water systems in the United States and 16,000 publicly owned treatment works with more than 600,000 miles of sewer lines in service, even modest remedial security measures will result in the need for large scale funding on a national basis.
Ben Grumbles, deputy chief of staff, Committee on Science, U.S. House of Representatives, and Catharine Cyr Ransom, professional staff member, Committee on Environment and Public Works, U.S. Senate, spoke about the water security research bills (H.R. 3178 and S. 1593, the Water Infrastructure Security and Research Development Act). “The bills respond to the need to fill existing research gaps and develop long-term strategies and technological tools for combatting terrorism,” said Grumbles.
“There also are definite secondary health and monetary benefits from public investment into water security,” said John Haestad, president and CEO of Haestad Methods. “Many of the same principles that apply to preventing, detecting and responding to intentional attacks also apply to mitigating accidental contamination events like those we’ve seen in the United States and Canada in recent years.”
“Reducing energy and infrastructure costs is another benefit,” Haestad added. “The same cutting edge calibration technology water authorities are obtaining to more accurately simulate contamination events also results in better overall water system models. Accurate system models improve analyses for efficiency, which leads to significant operational, infrastructure and energy cost savings for communities.”
Case studies presented at the summit provided insights into the application of models to determine the movement of water and contaminants through an aquifer and into a distribution system. Walter Grayman, Ph.D., P.E., examined several case studies, including the Woburn, Mass., incident detailed in the book A Civil Action; the groundwater contamination in Phoenix and Scottsdale, Ariz.; and the ongoing studies in Dover Township, N. J.
In addition, Jeffrey Aramini, Ph.D., Senior epidemiologist with Health Canada, gave a detailed report on the May 2000 Walkerton, Ontario E. coli outbreak. In his presentation, Dr. Aramini explained how Health Canada used WaterCAD water distribution modeling software in the determination of the cause of the outbreak.
International experts described solutions being implemented around the world. Peter Stoks, Ph.D., head of water quality, WRK Water Works, The Netherlands, described the fish system used in The Netherlands for early detection of contaminants in river water. Rhys Lewis, Ph.D., director, Instrumentation Division, Severn Trent Services, United Kingdom, discussed chemical and biological monitoring technologies, water quality monitoring and real-time disinfectant residual monitoring.
Thomas Walski, Ph.D., P.E., vice president of engineering for Haestad Methods, demonstrated how water distribution modeling could be used to respond once it is known or suspected that a contaminant has entered the distribution system. He described how the model could be used to determine the safest, most effective way to flush the contaminant out of the system. “Knowing how to properly model contamination in response to an actual attack will significantly reduce clean-up costs and exposure risks to the community,” Walski said.
Rolf Deininger, Dipl. Ing., Ph.D., professor of Environmental Health, School of Public Health, The University
of Michigan, gave a brief history of contamination of water supply systems and the agents that might be used. Among these agents are chemical warfare agents; biological agents such as bacteria, viruses and protozoa; toxins; and a long list of industrial toxicants. For a contaminant to be effective, it must be tasteless, colorless and odorless. Thus, many of the potential contaminants are not credible threats. In this presentation; methods of detection and protection measures a water utility can employ were reviewed. Deininger’s remarks reflect the summit consensus: “The water supply industry is not defenseless; many steps can be taken to make water systems are more secure.”
An abridged set of proceedings is being compiled from the interviews, presentations and panel discussions held at the Water Security Summit and will be made available during the month of February.
• Learn to assess the vulnerability of water systems.
• Obtain state and federal funding for infrastructure protection.
• Develop strategies for decreasing exposure to attacks.
• Identify and mitigate physical, chemical and biological threats.
• Implement warning, monitoring and detection technologies.
• Develop and implement emergency management plans.
• Apply hydraulic models to assess system vulnerability and emergency response capabilities.