EPA Orders Several Drinking Water Systems To Complete Vulnerability Assessments

EPA announced on May 18 it recently ordered 18 public water systems in California, one in Arizona and one in Hawaii to develop emergency response plans in case of terrorist attacks.

Most of the systems have also failed to submit required vulnerability assessments of their drinking water systems. By the end of June 2004, the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002 required each public water system serving between 3,300 and 50,000 people to:

  • Conduct an assessment of its system's vulnerabilities to terrorist attacks or other intentional acts intended to damage the drinking water system's ability to provide a safe and reliable supply of drinking water.
  • Certify and submit a written copy of the assessment.
  • Prepare and/or revise an emergency response plan that incorporates the results of the assessment.
  • Certify within six months of completing the assessment, that the water system has completed or updated its emergency response plan.

"Vulnerability assessments help drinking water systems identify the actions needed to protect public drinking water supplies from purposeful vandalism or contamination," said Alexis Strauss, water division director for the EPA's Pacific Southwest region. "When properly implemented, the emergency response plans help public water systems ensure they can provide communities a safe and clean source of drinking water."

The water systems have been ordered to submit a vulnerability assessment, and prepare and/or revise an emergency response plan that incorporates findings from the assessment. Finally the water systems will need to provide confirmation to the EPA that all requirements are completed.

Vulnerability assessments help water utilities to evaluate their susceptibility to potential threats and identify corrective actions to reduce or mitigate the risk of serious consequences from vandalism, insider sabotage, or terrorist attack. Although it is not a requirement, water systems are strongly encouraged to regularly review and update their vulnerability assessments and emergency response plans.

The following is a list of the California, Arizona and Hawaii water systems that have received orders: city of Crescent City (California); city of Fortuna (California) ; city of Lomita (California); Desert Hills Water Co. (Maricopa County, Arizona); Pitchess Detention Center (Castaic, California); city of Perris (California); Hawaii Volcanoes National Park (Hawaii); Lake Arrowhead CSD (California); San Lorenzo Valley W.D (Boulder Creek, California); city of Firebaugh (California) ; city of Dos Palos (California); Pajaro Sunny Mesa CSD (California); city of Norco (California); Florin County WD (California); city of Grover Beach (California); and Peerless Water Company (Bellflower, California).

The following only failed to submit an emergency response plan certification: California Correctional Center -- Susanville (California); city of Guadalupe (California); city of San Jacinto (California); and city of Delano (California).

Additional information on vulnerability assessments and other water security topics can be found at EPA's Web site: http://cfpub.epa.gov/safewater/watersecurity/index.cfm.

This article originally appeared in the 05/01/2006 issue of Environmental Protection.

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