It looks like water treatment plants and facilities will have an easier time this year with the new Republican held Congress. Last year, the chemical security or CFATS legislation that was put before Congress looked like it was going to put water districts and treatment plants under the CFATS mandates. Up to this point, water districts had been exempt from the chemical security mandates. HR 2868 which was passed by the House in Nov. 2009 would have put waste water management facilities under DHS and CFATS mandates. Water facilities would have had to conduct Top Screens and identified all Chemical of Interest (COI) in their facilities.
If that wasn’t enough they would also have been required to look at using alternative technologies and materials under the IST (Inherently Safer Technologies) provision of the new legislation. That part of the legislation would have required water treatment plants to review their materials and processes to look for new ones that might use fewer or less potentially dangerous materials.
Water waste treatment plants have already been scrutinized after 9/11. 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 was on the chemicals — primarily chlorine — that water districts use to treat and process drinking water. The thought is that the chlorine could be targeted for theft and diversion and used to produce explosive weapons.
We ended 2010 with no new CFATS legislation and the new Republican leadership in the House doesn’t seem interested in passing any restrictive laws that would add additional legislation for waste water and water treatment facilities. It seem much more likely that we will see legislation reach lawmakers that will keep CFATS as is extending it for several years or even making it permanent.