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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Christie Whitman today announced that the Orlando Utilities Commission in Orlando, Fla., was selected to receive a water security grant.
The Commission is one of seven utilities selected nationwide. This first round of water security grants is part of EPA's efforts to help large drinking water utilities across the nation assess their vulnerabilities. It is expected that in upcoming weeks, approximately 400 grants will be provided to assist utilities with security planning.
"Shortly after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, the EPA redoubled efforts already underway to promote security at America's 168,000 public drinking water facilities," said Whitman. "These grants will help ensure that the water people rely on is safe and secure."
In response to the attacks of Sept. 11, EPA received a nearly $90 million supplemental appropriation from Congress to improve the safety and security of the nation's water supply. EPA has allocated $53 million of the supplemental appropriation for security planning at large drinking water utilities. The large water utilities serve more than 100,000 people each and provide drinking water to about half of Americans served by public water systems. To date, a total of 384 grant applications have been received.
The $115,000 grant to the Orlando Utilities Commission is intended to help reduce its vulnerability to terrorist attacks and help enhance its security and ability to respond to emergency situations. The Commission serves more than 300,000 people.
Development of a vulnerability assessment is the highest priority activity under this grant program, since it is the first step in understanding where a utility can be damaged by terrorist attack. Funds also may be used for development of an emergency operations plan and to design security enhancements, or a combination of these efforts.
In addition to the grants, EPA has taken numerous steps to work with utilities to protect the nation's water supply. In October of 2001, Whitman formed a Water Protection Task Force. The agency has since disseminated to America's water utilities useful information about steps they can take to protect their water sources and physical infrastructure, which includes pumping stations, treatment facilities and computer systems.
In addition, EPA worked with Sandia National Labs, a premier research facility on security, to develop training materials for water companies so they can conduct thorough assessments of their vulnerabilities and determine how to minimize them. Since November 2001, the effort has provided security training to thousands of drinking water utility managers.
In cooperation with the FBI, EPA also has advised local law enforcement agencies across the country of steps they can take to help watch for possible threats to water systems. The agency also continues to work with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and others to improve understanding of the way chemical and biological agents of concern act in water and how to best counteract them.