WEFTEC program delves into security infrastructure

The industry's largest wastewater conference has responded to recent terrorist attacks by adding to its program several discussions on water infrastructure security.

By SYLVIE DALE and KATHY PURSLEY

ATLANTA, Ga., October 15, 2001 — The industry's largest wastewater conference has responded to recent terrorist attacks by adding to its program several discussions on water infrastructure security.

"We are quite frankly a war government at this time," said G. Tracy Mehan, EPA Assistant Administrator for Water, in remarks Monday at the Water Environment Federation's (WEF) annual conference.

"While there are a large number of exotic terrorist threats, we are still largely concerned with simple, physical threats such as aqueducts and reservoirs. That is the bad news. The good news is that everyone can help with surveillance and all Americans are competent to be watchful of these."

Mehan spoke at a press breakfast with outgoing WEF president Joe Stowe Jr.

The emergency support task force established following the events of September 11 is looking at the kinds of things it can do quickly and effectively to protect the water infrastructure, Mehan said. The task force will be working on assessing which chemicals or biological agents might be a threat and upgrading the nation's ability to monitor for them, creating a sort of template with which wastewater plants can conduct tests and determine and correct critical vulnerabilities.

"We have already sent out a list of five things to do if our water treatment facilities do nothing else," Mehan continued. This list of things, developed in conjunction with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), includes "keeping doors locked and sending in a list of employees for background checks," Mehan said.

The Water Environment Federation's conference and exhibition, or WEFTEC, which began Sunday and runs through Thursday in Atlanta, has added a session for Monday and another for Tuesday, called "Water Infrastructure Security."

The two sessions include speakers from the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies, CH2M Hill's Management & Information Systems division, the Metropolitan Sanitation Districts of Greater Cincinnati, the EPA Offices of Water and Wastewater Management, WEF Government Affairs Committee, Black & Veatch's Special Projects Group, the American Water Works Association, and the Center for Disease Control/ATSDR.

For more information, visit WEF's web site at http://www.wef.org.

More in Infrastructure Funding