Are Water Supplies Safe from Terrorism?
"Aquathin OP-ED Commentary"
We have recently begun to work closely with Aquathin Dealers and authorities in countries where terrorism is a daily occurance. Only now are they opening eyes to the potential
risk and safety of their water. This article shows the risk is close to home as well.
Are water supplies safe from terrorism?
INDIANAPOLIS — Acts of terrorism haven't been common in the United States, but in today's world they should not be downplayed and water supplies, particularly,
are vulnerable. Peter Beering, a terrorism preparedness coordinator in Indianapolis and a national adviser on the subject, said in an interview with
WaterTechOnline that preparation is important and training programs — many of which he conducts — should play an important role in safeguarding water supplies.
"Water is the quintessential target. It has been targeted for centuries both in real conflict and in cinematic conflict," Beering said.
"This is an insidious threat. It's one that is not well understood. The parties who would carry it out largely do business lurking in the shadows, so they are difficult to identify,"
Beering said. "Certainly, for many in the utility industry, [terrorists] are outside of the scope of things that they pay attention to. And given that water systems are,
by their very nature, open, they are easily identified because most systems have hydrants sticking up out of the dirt every five hundred or a thousand feet or so,
and it's difficult to hide water tanks and treatment plants."
Beering said operators need to take steps to improve basic security. Then they need to have plans in place in the event something goes wrong — even if it's an accidental incident
— and they should know right away who to contact and what procedures must be followed.
"It can be as simple as making sure that tanks and access hatches are locked, or the vents in water reservoirs secured in such a way that they can't be opened.
Are there surveillance mechanisms for raw water supplies? Are the wells adequately protected? This is an exercise in fences and locks," he said.
He said the water industry needs to get more involved in emergency planning in general, not just from a terrorism point of view.
But the possibility of terrorist acts shouldn't be swept under the rug. "I think that, as a country, on the whole, this is a threat that we have always perceived as only happening
in faraway places. Yet a review of the history of actual incidents very clearly indicates that this happens in the United States fairly routinely," said Beering.
"This is a manageable situation, but it's one that has been so far below the radar screen, because of other challenges that utilities have faced, that it just hasn't been given
very much attention and it's not something that just springs off the paper as being as big a risk as it is," he said. UNTIL IT HAPPENS!
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Edited from Tech Bank 08/28/01