Water sources difficult to attack

greenspun.com : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Water sources difficult to attack, panel told

Pipes and treatment facilities are more vulnerable to terrorist plots.

posted 10/05/01 By VICTOR HULL victor.hull@herald-trib.com

GAINESVILLE -- Florida's water transmission lines and treatment systems are more vulnerable to terrorist attacks than the drinking water itself, the state's top environmental official said Thursday.

"The real risk is not what's in the water, but waking up some day and saying, 'Where is the water?'" Florida Department of Environmental Affairs Secretary David Struhs said at a statewide conference on water management at the University of Florida.

More than 90 percent of the state's drinking water comes from underground, making it less susceptible to tampering, Struhs said.

Terrorists would not only have to gain access to the water but add enough harmful chemicals or biological organisms to poison a huge volume. The added substances would also have to survive an extensive treatment process, he said.

"That is a very unlikely scenario," Struhs said.

On the other hand, water supplying entire cities can pass through a single pipeline. An attack on such infrastructure could disrupt water service over a wide area. The idea of a chemical or biological attack may be more frightening to the general public, but Struhs called on water managers to concentrate on protecting distribution systems.

"That is where we need to focus our effort," he said. "We've got to be very empathetic to the public in responding to their fears. At the same time, we've got to recognize that what people are afraid of is not necessarily what the risk is."

Struhs spoke at the state's 26th annual conference of Florida's five water management districts, which concludes today. More than 250 people, including city and county commissioners, state and regional water management officials, consultants and environmentalists are attending the event.

The DEP secretary advocated increased water conservation efforts, land stewardship and minority hiring by the water management districts. The agencies regulate water use, control wetlands and provide flood control.

But he also touched on a topic on many people's minds: last month's terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Since the attacks, federal, state and local officials have been reassessing the nation's vulnerability to more terrorist attacks, including the possibility of poisoning food and water supplies.

On Wednesday, some water experts said utility officials haven't adequately defined the threat posed by terrorism to supplies. They also noted that the ability to detect harmful chemicals or biological contaminants in water supplies is limited.

Struhs downplayed those threats. He said that a host of agencies are reviewing and improving water security measures, including tests on supplies.


-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), October 05, 2001


This article supports the hypothesis that the wide-area effects of a major all-out terrorist attack would consist more of severe infrastructure disruption (power, water, telecommunications, energy, supply chain); than severe direct destruction (sickness, blast, fire, flooding . . .)

Thus, this scenario is not too much unlike the worst case scenario for the Y2K Bugs, that was envisioned back in 1999. That grim vision has now been "resurrected" with a vengeance!

-- Robert Riggs (rxr.999@worldnet.att.net), October 06, 2001.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ