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One of the things we all shutter about in this industry is the possibility that a terrorist act will affect our water supply or our wastewater treatment facility. Water resources are a natural target of terrorists who want to bring a community to a standstill, affecting virtually everyone in the area. For this reason, water and wastewater utilities are key targets and must take every reasonable precaution to prevent such an occurrence.

This is an unthinkable situation where somebody taints our supply, distribution, or treatment system, causing an illness or even death to our customers. Another possibility is someone tainting the treatment efficiency of a wastewater treatment plant, thereby tainting the environment—leading to drastic environmental effects.

The keys to avoidance of terrorist acts are first, deterrence, and second, early detection of something happening—detection in real time.

The best way to know what's happening is to integrate video, audio, and data information from your SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) system with automatic monitoring so that you will know that something out of the ordinary is happening or has just happened. By monitoring video, audio, and numeric data associated with every possible access point within your water or wastewater system, you can avoid terrorist acts before they occur.

This technology is available today and is very affordable. Using a systematic approach, it is within reach of all public utilities. The key is to approach your facility and processes systematically, ensuring that you analyze the critical data—what is really needed to detect any incursion at a public utility. Then you will be able to respond immediately—avoiding a catastrophe.

Of course, an inspection of your facilities and an assessment of their accessibility are integral to the technology we will examine, and employee safety is as important as physical security. This presentation and paper will outline a systematic process to design a system that allows early detection of any incursion and allows for early response to avoid any kind of catastrophic event. The paper will illustrate the process of developing a plan, including the cost and the technology available to avoid such occurrences. We will also demonstrate the methods to balance what's probable and what's possible.

Even a threat of contamination can cause a widespread panic, so do yourself and your clients a favor, come and learn how to use technology to solve tomorrow's biggest problem today!

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2002

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  • Proceedings of the Water Environment Federation is an archive of papers published in the proceedings of the annual Water Environment Federation® Technical Exhibition and Conference (WEFTEC® ) and specialty conferences held since the year 2000. These proceedings are not peer reviewed.

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