Municipal Water Districts Face CFATS Mandate

On Friday, Nov. 6 the House of Representatives passed HR 2868 (230 – 193) to make CFATS (Chemical Facilities Anti-Terrorism Standards) permanent and extend it to drinking water and wastewater treatment facilities. Now the bill will be sent to the Senate for review.

We spoke with Ryan Loughin who is the director of petrochemical and energy solutions for the Advanced Integration division of ADT. He had just this week attended a CFATS workshop with Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials in attendance.

The Senate still has to pass the bill and its amendments, so things could change. But, according to Loughin many industry professionals speculate the bill will pass and it will put water and wastewater treatment facilities under CFATS. He said that it is not expected to become law until next September and that would mean that water plants will not start feeling the effects until 2011 at the earliest.

Under the Bioterrorism Act of 2002, local drinking water systems serving more than 3,300 people were required to do a vulnerability assessment and based upon that assessment put together and implement a security plan. The focus in 2002 was on making sure there was a reliable and safe supply of drinking water. This time around with CFATS the focus is on the chemicals -- primarily chlorine -- that water districts use to treat and process drinking water.

DHS has identified more than 300 chemicals as COIs or Chemicals Of Interest. Under CFATS water districts and water treatment plants would have to do a “top screen” to determine if they are using or storing any COIs above the thresholds set by the department. If they are, then they will have to go through the same process that chemical plants have over the past few years and put together a Security Vulnerability Assessment.

Since municipal governments own many water districts, the bill now before the Senate would authorize $315 million for grant money in 2011. The grants would be available to state and local governments to help them put together and implement security plans.

-- PSW Staff

Ryan Loughin

Photo of Ryan Loughin