EPA Releases Water Security Action Plan

The Environmental Protection Agency has released a Water Security Research and Technical Action Plan that identifies critical research and technical support projects...

The Environmental Protection Agency has released a Water Security Research and Technical Action Plan that identifies critical research and technical support projects in the areas of physical and cyber security; contaminant identification; monitoring and analysis; treatment, decontamination and disposal; contingency planning; infrastructure interdependencies; and risk assessment and communication.

The report is the result of a collaborative effort between EPA, federal partners, the water industry, public health organizations and the emergency response community to identify the most pressing needs related to drinking water and wastewater security. A draft of the Action Plan was peer-reviewed by the National Research Council's Panel on Water System Security Research, which was organized in response to a request by EPA.

"The very nature of protecting the nation's water infrastructure is a dynamic and evolving process that requires flexibility," EPA said. "The Action Plan will, therefore, be periodically updated to reflect new or additional information on possible threats to water infrastructure and executive or legislative mandates and directives on homeland security."

Projects described in the Action Plan are intended to improve the understanding of the public health and environmental impacts of different kinds of attacks on water infrastructure.

"This knowledge, when applied and integrated into practices of the water security sector, will lead to improved awareness, preparedness, prevention, response, and recovery from intentional acts against water systems," EPA said.

Copies of the 56 page report may be downloaded in PDF format at www.epa.gov/safewater/watersecurity/pubs/action_plan_final.pdf.

EPA Report Reveals Pretreatment Program Failing to Meet Goals

Reductions in industrial waste discharges to the nation's sewer systems that characterized the early years of the wastewater pretreatment program have not endured, according to a new report by the Environmental Protection Agency Office of Inspector General.

"Since the middle of the 1990s, there has been little change in the volume of a broad list of toxic pollutants transferred to POTWs or in the index of risk associated with these pollutants. As a result, the performance of EPA's pretreatment program, which is responsible for controlling these discharges, is threatened and progress toward achieving the Congress' Clean Water Act goal of eliminating toxic discharges that can harm water quality has stalled," the report's authors wrote.

EPA said the failure to maintain early gains initially seen in the program may be explained in part by two factors: (1) dischargers that developed systems in response to EPA's initial program requirements have not enhanced their pretreatment systems in recent years, and (2) the rate at which EPA has been issuing effluent guidelines has dramatically declined since 1990.

"Our review of 22 POTWs suggests that the pretreatment program should be extended to at least some of the POTWs without approved programs because they reported having encountered more operational problems and were more likely to be discharging to an impaired water than POTWs with approved programs," the report said.

To counter the problem, EPA headquarters needs to provide more visible leadership, provide better information and adopt results-based performance measures.

"EPA's pretreatment program is at risk of losing the gains it made in its early years. The leveling off of those early gains, coinciding with EPA's diminishing program emphasis, paints a picture of a program at risk.

"Headquarters has delayed finalizing guides and regulations intended to update the pretreatment program by not allocating sufficient resources or requesting budget increases for additional pretreatment resources. Additionally, results-based performance measures on pretreatment program activities have not been developed partially due to the lack of adequate, accessible data. As a result, POTWs' pretreatment programs may not be as effective in protecting environmental quality or worker health and safety as they could be, and EPA cannot assess the effectiveness of its pretreatment program," the report's authors said.

To obtain a PDF version of the report, visit www.epa.gov/oigearth/ reports/2004/20040928-2004-P-00030.pdf.

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