Water security also undercut in latest ASCE Infrastructure Report Card

This month, the American Society of Civil Engineers released its 2005 Report Card on America's Infrastructure, which gave related security issues a grade of "incomplete" nearly two years after President Bush signed the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002. That act called for enhancement of controls on dangerous biological agents and toxins to protect the safety of food, drug and water supplies...

By Carlos David Mogollón, PennWell Water Group web content editor

TUCSON, AZ, March 29, 2005 -- Earlier this month, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) released its 2005 Report Card on America's Infrastructure, which gave related security issues a grade of "incomplete" nearly two years after President Bush signed the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002 -- the Bioterrorism Act. That act called for enhancement of controls on dangerous biological agents and toxins to protect the safety of food, drug and water supplies.

This comes on top of a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency inspector general report in January warning that water utilities "may be susceptible to attacks" by cyberterrorists via computer-based monitoring and control systems [See: "Utility computer systems susceptible to cyber attack, EPA inspector reports"].

At the POWER-GEN, DistribuTECH, WEF Disinfection and AWWA Membrane conferences this winter, the subject of security and analytical control systems has been a crucial element as well as a challenge for utilities on top of their primary mission of simply treating and delivering quality water.

The ASCE Report Card scored both drinking water and wastewater infrastructure a D-, down from a D in the 2001 Report Card. The overall grade for U.S. infrastructure -- including airports, rail, roads, bridges, dams, navigable waterways, parks, schools, etc. -- declined from a D+ to a D since 2001, with significant declines in a number of areas.

A relatively new topic, security has become a much more critical component following the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the global War on Terror. To date, the report section on security notes, much has been done, but much remains unfinished. This is particularly true when looking at water security issues at a time when the last Report Card pointed to major funding shortfalls for already aging infrastructure.

Jeannette Brown, executive director of the Stamford Water Pollution Control Authority and vice president of the ASCE Environmental and Water Resources Institute, noted the EPA has estimated that over half a trillion dollars needs to be spent over the next 20 years to repair, replace or upgrade the nation's drinking water ($151 billion) and wastewater ($390 billion) systems. [see: "Lack of funding draining for America's water systems: ASCE"]. Overall, the 2005 Report Card suggests $1.6 trillion needs to be spent over the next five years on all 15 categories assessed to get back to a good level. In a tight economy or with federal, state and local budgets squeezed by other priorities, this kind of investment is virtually impossible.

Still, funded through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and in conjunction with the American Water Works Association and Water Environment Federation, ASCE has developed a set of three interim security guidance documents that cover design of online contaminant monitoring systems, and physical security enhancements of drinking water, wastewater and stormwater infrastructure systems. The voluntary guidelines are meant to assist drinking water and wastewater/stormwater utilities in addressing potential vulnerabilities in their systems through design, construction, operation and maintenance of both new and existing systems of all sizes. [Click here to view guidelines.]

In the 2005 Report Card, ASCE points out:
"Since Sept. 11, 2001, most critical infrastructure owners and operators have conducted preliminary vulnerability assessments of their facilities, and have updated and modified their security procedures to enhance deterrence, protection, response, and recovery. In addition, training exercises and drills have been conducted with employees and contractors, and public outreach programs have been implemented at health, medical and research facilities; energy plants; water facilities; employment centers; public and private schools; and on public transportation systems, including bridges, tunnels, highways, and public transit. Industry has also invested heavily in protecting supply chains and the transport of hazardous materials.

"Collectively, these steps have certainly improved the security of our nation's critical infrastructure systems since Sept. 11, 2001; however, enormous challenges remain. Overcoming them will require a steadfast willingness to acknowledge the threats, think 'outside the box,' and to work with other sectors of the economy and professional disciplines. Sacrifices must be made in deference to a coordinated, integrated, and comprehensive public/private effort to prevent, protect, respond to, and recover from terrorist attacks. The security of our critical infrastructures, key resources, and our people depend on it."

On a personal note, Brown said the Stamford, Conn., wastewater facility she runs is about to install cameras and a security gate at a cost of nearly $250,000. That's not to mention simple things like putting in a higher fence or more locks here and there as well as more complex issues such as providing cybersecurity on SCADA controls, metering, billing and other online data such as engineering drawings, etc. All of those translate to higher user fees as well as customer rates that smaller communities may find harder to recoup in one way or another.

She added that water treatment plants have been more aware of security issues than wastewater facilities -- that is until 9/11: "Now, we're all concerned with malevolent acts that could affect water quality and do environmental damage -- and economic damage -- within our communities. The cost factors are significant. It's kind of a delicate balance. We were all hoping there would be some federal monies available to do some of these things. They're all very important."

Links to targeted areas and their scores:
-- Security (I)*: www.asce.org/reportcard/2005/page.cfm?id=32
-- Drinking Water (D-): www.asce.org/reportcard/2005/page.cfm?id=24
-- Wastewater (D-): www.asce.org/reportcard/2005/page.cfm?id=35

* I = incomplete.

For the full report, see: 2005 ASCE Report Card on America's Infrastructure.

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Additional Online Water Security Resources
-- EPA - Water Security: www.epa.gov/epahome/hi-watersecurity.htm
or http://cfpub.epa.gov/safewater/watersecurity/index.cfm
-- CDC - Water Security: www.cdc.gov/nceh/ehs/ETP/water.htm
-- FDA - Counterterrorism: www.fda.gov/oc/opacom/hottopics/bioterrorism.html
-- California Department of Health Services, Division of Drinking Water & Environmental Management, Water System Security: www.dhs.ca.gov/ps/ddwem/Homeland/
-- AWWA - Security: www.awwa.org/advocacy/learn/security/
-- WEF - Water Security: www.wef.org/watersecurity/
-- AMWA - Water Security: www.amwa.net/security/

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