Water security update

Matt Singleton
Director of Public Works
City of Grapevine, Texas
Member, APWA Water Resources Management Committee

In the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon many security initiatives were enacted—none more critical than the initiatives that affect the 160,000 public drinking water utilities and the more than 16,000 wastewater utilities in the United States.

Drinking water and wastewater facilities are vulnerable to a variety of attacks, including contamination with deadly agents and physical and cyber attacks. In the event these attacks were to occur large numbers of illnesses or casualties or denial of service would be the result. Critical services such as firefighting, health care and other dependent and interdependent sectors such as energy, transportation, and food and agriculture would suffer negative impacts from a denial of this service.

For decades, water sector utilities have been protecting human health and the environment. EPA has been working with public and private water sector utilities to secure critical infrastructure across the nation. This work began prior to 9/11; many of EPA's ongoing programs support security-related activities and were carried out under the Safe Drinking Water Act, Clean Water Act, and the Federal Water Pollution Control Act. All water sector utility partners continue to collaborate to be better prepared to prevent, detect and respond to and recover from terrorist attacks and other intentional acts, natural disasters and other hazards.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was established immediately following 9/11. The mission is to lead the unified national effort to secure America. DHS is to prevent and deter terrorist attacks and protect against and respond to threats and hazards to the nation. DHS is to ensure safe and secure borders, welcome lawful immigrants and visitors, and promote the free-flow of commerce.

Several programs were promulgated to enhance security for drinking water facilities. Each facility was to develop a Vulnerability Assessment that identified potential areas of exposure to hazards. Then each facility was to develop a Risk Management Plan which outlined tools to mitigate the hazards. EPA is the lead agency, under the DHS, to ensure these programs were implemented. EPA (at least Region 6) has begun monitoring facility compliance with the Risk Management Plan and, in the event of a deficiency, issuing a Notice of Violation and a fine.

President Bush issued a directive that has taken water and wastewater utility security to a new level. President Bush issued the Homeland Security Presidential Directive 7 (HSPD-7). This directive charges certain federal agencies with identifying and prioritizing critical national infrastructure and resources for protection from terrorist acts that could cause catastrophic health impacts or mass casualties; undermine public confidence; or disrupt essential government functions, essential services or the economy. In recognition of the distinctive characteristics of different infrastructure assets, HSPD-7 divides the national infrastructure into 17 sectors and assigned protection responsibilities for them to selected federal agencies. EPA has been designated as the federal agency for the water sector.

A key requirement of HSPD-7 is that DHS and EPA develop a strategy to protect all critical infrastructure. That strategy is called the National Infrastructure Protection Plan (NIPP). It provides the unifying structure for integration of current and future infrastructure protection efforts into a single national program to achieve the goal of a safer, more secure nation. The plan can be found at http://www.dhs.gov/xprevprot/programs/editorial_0827.shtm. Wastewater facilities are now considered a critical asset. Up to now security efforts concentrated on drinking water systems.

The National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA) published Protecting Water Infrastructure Assets...Legal Issues in a Time of Crisis Checklist in the wake of September 11, 2001. Since that time terrorist attacks have continued around the world and NACWA has partnered with the American Public Works Association, the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies and the Water Environment Federation to expand, revise and update the issues covered in the original Checklist. This revision is still in draft form but will soon be released. The original document can be found in the NACWA bookstore.

We all rely on clean and safe water. As professionals in the water and wastewater utility industry it is paramount that we protect these critical assets. All of the sector's public health, environmental and security-related efforts rely on a multi-barrier approach. Every community water system must provide an annual "Consumer Confidence Report" to its customers. We must utilize every tool available to ensure the most up-to-date and effective security systems.

Matt Singleton can be reached at (817) 410-3328 or matts@grapevine.texas.gov.