Florida state environmental regulators have ordered water utility operators to alert the state immediately if anything suspicious happens at their plants. This was prompted by a recent security breach at a Florida's DeBary water plant on Jan. 12.
When a county employee at the DeBary water plant found evidence of a security breach on that date, only Sheriff's officials were informed about the incident. The county did not notify the state Health Department until almost 36 hours later, because they thought the incident was "minor."
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection issued the new statewide order Wednesday. It requires the water plant officials to notify the agency as soon as they find out about any "suspicious incident, security breach or suspected sabotage."
State officials also said Wednesday they are investigating whether Volusia County officials broke the law by not informing the state right away about the security breach.
Tests in response to the Jan. 12 breach did not find anything wrong with the water, and no one was arrested for the break-in.
The county could face a fine of up to $1,000 plus other costs, said Christianne Ferraro, a program administrator for water facilities in the Department of Environmental Protection's Orlando office.
"We really want all the utilities to take this seriously when these break-ins occur," she said.
County spokesman Dave Byron said county officials would be meeting with the agency soon to discuss the matter.