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The September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks forced many public utilities to evaluate their systems' safety and security. Congress required drinking water utilities to conduct vulnerability assessments (VA) and most have complied with this mandate. The focus now has shifted toward wastewater systems. At this writing, current Congressional legislation would provide grant funding for, and possibly require, VAs for wastewater utilities.

Several tools have been made available to assist wastewater utilities in completing VAs. The Vulnerability Self-Assessment Tool (VSAT) is a database-driven computer software tool that stores information about a utility and assists the user in calculating risk and evaluating cost-perunit risk reduction. The Risk Assessment Methodology for Water (RAM-WSM), developed by Sandia National Laboratories, has also been applied to wastewater systems to assess vulnerability. Both tools use the same underlying methodology, which generally involves first evaluating the utility's mission and goals and then identifying the facilities and assets critical to meeting that mission. Next, the credible threat that could prevent the utility from achieving its goals is defined and the resulting risk to critical assets is determined, and recommendations are made for physical security upgrades and operational and procedural changes that could decrease the risk.

The VA's goal is to recommend upgrades and changes to better enable the utility to continue fulfilling its mission, which typically is to protect the environment and public health and deliver quality service to customers. A VA typically includes a “threat assessment” that helps define the required level of protection. However, upon completing their vulnerability assessments, many utilities feel uncertain as to how many of the recommendations to implement and what level of protection is acceptable. With limited resources, they must prioritize improvements. There is almost always insufficient funding available to completely eliminate risk, so utilities are faced with the question, “How much security is enough?” This paper will offer some techniques to help utilities answer this question by comparing the improvements made by other utilities, defining the “standard of care” that should be considered by the utility, and putting the security risks in the context of other risks utilities face. In addition, a case study of how the Green Bay Metropolitan Sewerage District employed these techniques will be presented.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 January 2004

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