Government Moves to Protect Water Supplies

The federal government issued the first round of water security grants, part of $53 million to help large drinking water utilities across the nation assess their vulnerabilities. As many as 400 grants will be given to utilities to help with security planning.

EPA Administrator Christie Whitman presented the first water security grant for $115,000 to the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission to help conduct water security planning. The Rocky Gorge Reservoir is one source of water for the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission.

"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."

Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission General Manager John Griffin said the vulnerability assessment, with EPA's guidance, will help strengthen the utility's 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," said Griffin.

Whitman also announced that checks will go to the San Juan Water District in Calif. ($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).

In response to the attacks of September 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 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.

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