Security Breaches Impact Two U.S. Water Treatment Facilities

Wireless detection system offers protection against intrusion at access points

In the past several weeks, water treatment facilities in Georgia and Massachusetts experienced security breaches that posed threats to the drinking water supply in these communities. While the intention of the intruders at both facilities is unclear at this point, these incidents have raised awareness for heightened security measures at water treatment facilities throughout the United States.

On April 26, 2013, settings that control the amount of chlorine and fluoride that is added to the water were tampered with in the Carters Lake Water Treatment Plant in Ramhurst, Ga., and approximately 400 residents were advised not to drink the water. According to a Bloomberg BusinessWeek article, the FBI is investigating this incident based on concerns that the perpetrators intended greater harm.

Separately, seven individuals were caught trespassing at the Quabbin Reservoir in Belchertown, Ma., at 12:30 a.m. on May 14, 2013.  It was reported that the perpetrators were from Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Singapore and held current addresses in Amherst, Cambridge, Sunderland, Northampton and New York City. The men told police they were recently graduated chemical engineers curious about the reservoir. Although there was no immediate evidence of any criminal activity, an investigation is ongoing due to the suspicious time that the group was found and the violation of the no trespassing law.

The Bilco Co. offers a security product that is designed to protect access points in water treatment facilities against the threat of intentional contamination. CNIguard is a wireless intrusion detection system that utilizes a patented Smart Sensing Technology to detect tampering such as drilling, grinding and cutting at access points while eliminating costly false alarms. The computerized system has the ability to distinguish between real threats and common occurrences such as heavy rain or hail and is rated for a maximum of one false alarm per year. Unlike video or audio surveillance systems on the market, CNIguard does not rely on human interpretation to determine if a threat is real.

The CNIguard intrusion detection system installs easily on any access point and is ideally suited for pumping stations and wells in remote areas. The system consists of a controller and a series of detectors that are mounted to access points throughout a water treatment facility. Radio signals, which are encrypted to prevent hacking, are used to communicate between these devices.  The controller is hard wired into a facility's main power supply and connected into a standard SCADA monitoring system. Detectors are powered individually by lithium batteries and are designed for the integration of commercially available sensors to monitor operational requirements such as flooding and temperature and pressure changes if required.

The Bilco Co.

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