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EPA Administer Whitman presents water security grant to Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission

Release Date: 6/7/2002
Contact Information: Roy Seneca (215) 814-5567

Contact: Roy Seneca (215) 814-5567

During a visit to Rocky Gorge Reservoir near Laurel, Md., U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Christie Whitman today announced the first round of water security grants, part of $53 million to help large drinking water utilities across the nation assess their vulnerabilities. It is expected that in upcoming weeks, approximately 400 grants will be provided to assist utilities with security planning.

At today’s event, Whitman presented the first water security grant of $115,000 to the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission to help conduct water security planning. The commission provides drinking water to about 1.6 million people in Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties, Md.

“Shortly after the terrorist attacks of September 11, the EPA redoubled efforts already underway to promote security at America’s 168,000 public drinking water facilities,” said Whitman. “These grants will help ensure that the water people rely on is safe and secure.”

“For more than 80 years, our mission has been to supply safe, clean water to our customers,” said Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission General Manager John R. Griffin. “Our Vulnerability Assessment, with EPA's guidance, will help strengthen our already solid foundation of safety and security measures. By analyzing security issues at every level of our water and wastewater operations, this extensive assessment assures our customers of our vigilance in preserving their health and safety every day.”

Administrator Whitman also announced that checks are being sent to the San Juan Water District in California ($115,000); Rend Lake Conservancy District in Benton, Ill. ($96,000); City of Elgin, Ill. ($115,000); City of Naperville, Ill. ($115,000); City of Wilmette, Ill. ($115,000), and the Orlando Utilities Commission in Orlando, Fla. ($115,000).

EPA Administer Whitman awards first nationwide water security grants
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EPA also will work with states, tribes and appropriate organizations to further develop and disseminate tools and support security efforts at small and medium drinking water and wastewater systems.

In response to the attacks of Sept. 11, EPA received a supplemental appropriation from Congress to improve the safety and security of the nation's water supply. The nearly $90 million is intended to reduce the vulnerability of water utilities to terrorist attacks and to help enhance their security and ability to respond to emergency situations.

EPA has allocated $53 million of the supplemental for security planning at large drinking water utilities. The large water utilities serve more than 100,000 people each and provide drinking water to about half of Americans served by public water systems. To date, a total of 384 grant applications have been received. Each award will be up to $115,000. Any remaining funds will be directed to other security planning needs.

Development of a vulnerability assessment is the highest priority activity under this grant program, since it is the first step in understanding where a utility can be damaged by terrorist attack. Funds may also be used for development of an emergency operations plan and to design security enhancements, or a combination of these efforts.

In addition to the funding discussed by Whitman today, EPA has taken numerous steps to work with utilities to protect the nation’s water supply. In October, Whitman formed a Water Protection Task Force. The agency has since disseminated to America’s water utilities useful information about steps they can take to protect their water sources and physical infrastructure, which includes pumping stations, treatment facilities and computer systems.

In addition, EPA worked with Sandia National Labs, a premier research facility on security, to develop training materials for water companies so they can conduct thorough assessments of their vulnerabilities and determine how to minimize them. Since November of 2001, the effort has provided security training to thousands of drinking water utility managers.

In cooperation with the FBI, EPA also has advised local law enforcement agencies across the country of steps they can take to help watch for possible threats to water systems. The agency also continues to work with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and others to improve understanding of the way the chemical and biological agents of concern act in water and how to best counteract them.