Thursday, December 4, 2008

Water Works and Chlorine Politics

The American Water Works Association (AWWA) probably feels pretty put upon about now. The Center for American Progress report, Chemical Security 101 (CS 101), points a pretty loud political finger at a large number of water treatment and waste water treatment facilities for their use of chlorine and sulfur dioxide. Earlier this week they released their statement about the issues raised in the CAP report. AWWA Statement They acknowledge the safety and security issues involved in using chlorine. They remind CAP that “While no single disinfectant is right for all systems, some form of chlorine is necessary and required by state and federal regulations for all drinking water systems using surface water, and based on new federal regulations, for some systems using groundwater.” They also remind everyone that decisions about treatment options “must ultimately be made locally. Those decisions must take into account several factors, including source water quality, water treatment goals, regulatory requirements and storage capacity. Cost must also be examined, but it is just one of many considerations when determining the best way to assure safe water.” In an effort to try to deflect the attention focused on their member facilities they did announce that they were working on a “new document to help water systems evaluate disinfection methods from security, water quality, safety, and other perspectives”. They expect the report, "A Guide to Evaluating and Selecting Disinfection in a Security-Conscious Environment”, to be issued early next year. Political Counter Move As I noted in my blog yesterday (see: “The Buzz Continues about Chemical Security 101”) CS 101 is a political manifesto, and it obviously has an audience in the incoming administration. If the AWWA wants to remain an effective part of the discussion about water treatment system security, they are going to have to release their guide with the same PR effort that is going into the support for CS 101. They are going to need to engage the press and put facility managers out in front of the public explaining their side of the issue. They are going to have to point out that they have been working on this problem since before 9/11. It would be interesting to see some detailed reporting on the problems that facilities have had to overcome to substitute bleach or on-site chlorine production at water facilities. Not only would this be a good political tool, but it would help facilities that do plan on making similar conversions. This would be something similar to their June web cast on Gaseous Chlorine. A useful hand out would be a reproduction of the testimony of Brad Coffey, Water Treatment Manager, MWDSC, before the House Environment and Hazardous Materials on June 12th, 2008. He provides a clear, concise, and understandable explanation of why one of the largest water treatment plants in the country cannot switch to bleach. IST is Coming It looks to me like some form of IST will be required in new chemical facility security legislation early in the 111th Congress. It is also clear that the water treatment facility exception will disappear before the current CFATS regulations die in October 2009. The CAP report has supporters in the incoming Obama Administration. The political moves are being made to bring more political support in Congress. If the AWWA wants any part in the discussion of how those regulations will be written, they need to start getting their political movement going.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

PJ, I appreciate your digging up so much good info on chemical risks. But when you cite a study like Orum's as a "political manifesto", even while then praising its technical merit, you might consider using an easily-insertable macro two-liner something like: "Full disclosure: this blog is consistently a political manifesto that (sometimes exasperatedly) tries to educate the benighted chemical industry how to deal with the likes of critics who would regulate disaster risk facilities.")

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