When we last discussed municipal water districts and security mandates, a bill had just passed in the House of Representatives (HR 2686) that would fold water treatment plants into the Chemical Facilities Anti-terrorist Standards or as they are known --CFATS. That would require water facilities to go through the same DHS screening process as chemical and petrochemical plants. The authors of the House bill feel that the chemicals used in the treatment of water could be targeted by terrorists.
The House bill was passed in November and it still needs to make its way through the Senate. Earlier this month U.S. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) leading a bi-partisan group of Senators, introduced the Continuing Chemical Facilities Anti-Terrorist Standards bill. This piece of legislation would continue the existing CFATS legislation as is for another five years. The current legislation does not include drinking water or waste water treatment facilities. Collins and her colleagues believe this extension legislation would give DHS time to finish the work it began with chemical facilities in 2006 when CFATS was first implemented.
Sen. Collins has been quoted as saying that the House bill (HR. 2868) would bring that work to a “screeching halt.”
Including water treatment plants in CFATS could be costly and time consuming. Many of these plants are owned by municipalities that are already strapped for funds. The house bill did take this into consideration and authorized $315 million in grant money.
The chemical industry also does not like the House bill because it includes an IST (Inherently Safer Technology) mandate that would require some manufacturing, chemical and petrochemical plants to use different processes that could be more costly. SOCMA (Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates) and ACC (American Chemical Council) have come out in favor of the Collins bill.
It looks like in addition to the Senate version of the bill passed by the house and Sen. Collin’s bill there will be other legislation introduced on this subject. We will have to wait to see which bill gains the most support over the coming months. In October the Senate extended the current legislation for one year, so legislators have until the fall to make a decision.
-- PSW staff