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“Terrorism and Our Water Supplies:
Addressing Customers’ Concerns”

There are many possible toxic biological organisms as well as chemical substances of concern. The USEPA, along with the CDC, state administrators, and American Water Works Association are already working with water utilities to increase their vigilance source water investigations, security measures, and analyses to make sure that they can detect such agents. The first defense against this potential health treat is in the hands of the water utility management and their central treatment processes and analytical procedure.

Distillation, RO, UV, and fine filtration units may provide additional protection barriers against many of these agents. For example, anthrax spores are two to six microns in size, similar to protozoan cysts. Products tested and certified for their effectiveness in cyst reduction likely would effectively reduce anthrax. Many biological organisms are inactivated by heat in a POU distillation unit. Similarly, ultraviolet light disrupts the reproduction mechanism in microorganisms, rendering them inactive. Regarding chemical agents, RO units and carbon filters may reject or absorb these toxic compounds, although they may not have been specifically tested for a particular chemical.

The bacterial, viral, and different chemical sabotage and terrorist threats have not been encountered in waters and, thus, have not, of course, been incorporated in drinking water treatment unit product designs or performance standards. Specifically, our drinking water treatment unit products have not been tested and certified for their effectiveness in reducing these exotic chemical or biological sabotage agents.

Some Government experts believe that many point-of-use (POU) and point-of-entry (POE) technologies such as distillation, reverse osmosis, absolute filtration, activated carbon, and ultraviolet light &#mdash; especially when assembled in appropriate combinations in a water treatment system &#mdash; may provide an added level of protection against biological and chemical terrorist/warfare agents in drinking water.

Once a terrorist contamination is identified, an alternate and secure source of drinking water should be used immediately. The most likely role of the POU/POE systems would be that of increased pre-event protection &#mdash; prior to the awareness of contamination.

The full scope and performance integrity of POU/POE drinking water treatment products must be sustained with factual test data following scientifically valid test procedures. The CDC is currently conducting research to identify safe-to-handle surrogates for specific biological and chemical warfare agents. (This could take years.) These surrogates, when released by the CDC, will then enable research and development of reliable performance standards.


“Terrorism and Our Water Supplies: Addressing Customers’ Concerns.” WQA Newsfax. 2 October 2001. Water Quality Association: 3.

“POU/POE and Bioterrorism Revisited.” WQA Newsfax. 17 April 2002. Water Quality Association: 2.


 
 
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Last Updated: January 9, 2014