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
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.
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.
hydraulic models to assess system vulnerability and emergency response capabilities.