Post 9/11: Heightened Security for SC Water Treatment Plants
Up until 9/11/2001, many commercial and industrial facilities were only minimally secured from outside threats or crisis situations. Post 9/11; however, these types of facilities saw a significant increase in security measures. One in particular, was the water treatment plants in South Carolina’s state capitol, Columbia. At the time, John Dooley was the city’s public utilities director, and he was concerned for the security of the water supply to the citizens of Columbia, SC.
Today, John Dooley is our guest author and he will explain the security precautions that were taken post 9/11 by his industrial facility to secure the water supply for the city of Columbia, SC.
“Even before the World Trade Center, we had begun the initial steps to secure our key utility units. For Columbia that meant the drinking water system.
In Columbia there are two water treatment plants, one on Lake Murray and the other downtown on the Broad River Canal. Before 9/11, the plant sites were secured with fencing and gates, but for the first 6 months immediately following 9/11, we also stationed police officers on the grounds to ensure security was effective.
Although cameras were utilized inside the facility initially, we also installed remote cameras and placed them throughout the plant to scan fence lines, as well as key elements in the treatment train. The water plant operators had access to monitor these locations from the control room.
We also changed our method of receiving deliveries. Post 9/11 we enacted protocol that deliveries to the plants must be scheduled in advance. This way we knew the day and times that deliveries were expected, this only added another layer to our continued safety procedures.
Continuous water quality monitoring was also a key to security, so that we could detect possible breaches to the system or to the raw water supplies, i.e. the Broad River or Lake Murray. We increased our checks to monitor the water quality and ensure that no intentional breaches were happening without our knowledge.”
Unfortunately public water systems are still highly vulnerable through water storage tanks and directly into the water mains. Still, the only defense is to isolate potentially compromised sections. Although Mr. Dooley is now the former public utilities director for Columbia, he says there have been no intentional breaches to the water treatment plants and that they have continued to evolve their safety and security measures to stay up-to-date on industry security trends.