Development and Implementation of a Water Monitoring Plan to Prepare for Criminal and Terroristic Contamination of a Drinking Water System

Development and Implementation of a Water Monitoring Plan to Prepare for Criminal and Terroristic Contamination of a Drinking Water System

Honolulu Board of Water Supply

2/15/02 - 12/31/04

The recent acts of terrorism in the U.S. have clearly shown that agencies in the U.S. and throughout the world are not prepared to defend against terroristic acts on their citizenry. As a result, agencies which service the citizens of the U.S. are now charged with developing and implementing effective plans to secure, maintain, protect, and to monitor their facilities so their mission can be maintained and the citizens they serve protected from terroristic acts.

The drinking water agency has been identified as a likely target for terroristic acts because this agency provides water to large populations of people and the contamination of drinking of water sources has been identified as a likely means for a terroristic act. Since there are no nationally established or approved plans for water utilities to protect against terroristic acts, each water utility has the responsibility to immediately develop plans to safe-guard their water supply from contamination with hazardous chemical, physical and biological agents.

Goal and Design of Study:

The overall goal of this study was to develop and to evaluate a water-monitoring plan to rapidly and reliably detect contamination of the BWS water system by hazardous chemical, physical, and biological agents. The design of this study was for the Water Resources Research Center (WRRC) of the University of Hawaii to provide the personnel and expertise to develop a feasible plan and to implement and evaluate the effectiveness of this plan. In addition, the intent of this study was to train the BWS laboratory personnel to manage this project within two years. This study recognized that an acceptable water-monitoring plan to address terroristic acts against water utilities had not yet been standardized and other water utilities and agencies in the US evaluated other test procedures. As a result, over the two-year period, methods developed by other agencies were also evaluated to determine their suitability and effectiveness to meet the goal of this study.

In the implementation of this project, WRRC evaluated selected methods and trained personnel of BWS on the use and interpretation of these methods. BWS purchased the equipment, accessories, and reagents to establish these methods at the BWS laboratory. BWS provided laboratory personnel to be trained, to record the basic data, which characterized the quality of their various drinking water sources and to communicate these results with BWS administration.

Specific Objectives:

Specific objectives related to achieving the goal of this study were as follows:

  1. Determining the most likely chemical, physical, and biological agents which can be used to contaminate drinking water sources by terrorists.
  2. Developing a three-tiered water-monitoring plan using selected test methods for each of the three tiers of testing. The first tier of test methods were characterized as being very rapid (minutes to < 1 hour) and detected a contaminating event or intrusion in the water system. These tests were not able to specifically identify the contaminating agent but could determine whether the contaminating agent is most likely to be a hazardous chemical, physical, or biological agent. These methods can also be used to determine what actions may be effective and ineffective in removing or neutralizing these hazardous agents. The second tier of testing involved moderately rapid tests (several hours), which provided more reliable results to identify the contaminant. The third tier of testing took longer (> 1 day) and used the most reliable test procedures to identify the contaminant.
  3. Analyzing all of the major sources of water used by BWS using the rapid methods as established in the first tier of testing at an approximate frequency of once per month. This resulted in a data-base of expected water quality measurements for the water sources used by BWS so that a contaminating event can be recognized with confidence. Elevated levels will immediately trigger more sampling and the implementation of a plan to inform managers of BWS so emergency actions can be considered while implementing second and third tier testing methods.
  4. WRRC personnel optimizing and streamlining the use of the methods and training BWS laboratory personnel in the use and interpretation of the newly established methods at the BWS laboratory.
  5. Alternative water sources (eg, springs, stream water) other than the traditional groundwater sources used by BWS were identified for possible emergency use when a contamination event occurs. The ambient quality of these water sources were also similarly determined.
  6. Applying these test methods to resolve water quality problems, which are un-related to terroristic acts but occur from time to time and raise concerns about meeting existing water quality standards or posing possible health effects to consumers of water. Some of these same tests can also be applied to assess the quality of treated wastewater, which will be re-used. It should be noted that the BWS laboratory became familiar with methods involved in testing wastewater because the BWS has expanded its mission to include wastewater re-use.
  7. Writing a final project report summarizing the evaluation of the water monitoring plan and the training of the BWS laboratory personnel. This report addressed protocols related to the interaction of the laboratory and the managers of BWS with regard to conditions, which triggered the water monitoring plan and the reporting of the laboratory data. This report will also provide recommendations and future plan of actions, after the completion of this two-year study.