Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Water Facility Security in the Wiki Bill

One of the things that I did in my draft chemical facility security bill was to include water facilities in the chemical security program. I didn’t do this by modifying the current water facility security rules like Sen. Lautenberg did in S 3598 in the current session or the House did in the version of HR 2868 they passed last year. I just removed the language in the §550 authorizing language that exempted those facilities from coverage under the current CFATS program.

The reason for this is that the current water facility security program focuses mainly on the prevention of contamination of drinking water supplies. This is an important function in its own right and one that is probably better dealt with by water treatment experts. The processes that must be understood to deal with the security of the drinking water supply are significantly different than those processes affecting chemical facility security.

The protection of the chemicals at those facilities that would normally fall under the CFATS mandate (chlorine, anhydrous ammonia, and the like) will require the same types of security protocols, however, where ever they are located. So to me, it makes eminent sense to regulate the security of those chemicals under the CFATS program where ever they are found.

Chemical Security Sanctions

One of the main objections that the water treatment community has had with adding their facilities to the CFATS program is that those regulations give the DHS Secretary the authority to shut down non-complying facilities. Obviously no one expects water facilities to defy DHS, but the thought of the Secretary potentially shutting down a water facility that was fulfilling its water distribution function just does not make sense to the water treatment community.

I dealt with this by specifically exempting them from that sanction in the §550 authorization in §2(a)(4) of my proposed bill. I also realize that there must be provisions for some sort of sanctions against facilities that refuse to comply. I address this by having those sanctions applied through the Administrator of the EPA. Presumably the EPA would have a better understanding of the water treatment facility’s unique situation and would be better able to apply those sanctions.

Conflicts with Water Security Rules

Many water facility operators will undoubtedly be concerned that their coverage under the CFATS program will conflict with their security programs under the water system security programs. This is of course the same concern that many chemical facility operators had when CFATS was going to be applied to them in 2007. Existing security procedures are not invalidated by the CFATS program; they are incorporated in the CFATS process.

It is almost inevitable that additional security procedures will need to be implemented at these water facilities. Even facilities with extensive security measures will have holes in their program. This is a consequence of the fact that there has been no independent risk-based review of the security program. CFATS will certainly provide that.

Need for CFATS Coverage

Why shouldn’t we utilize the Lautenberg model of chemical security? The big problem is that there are no inspectors to insure that chemical security measures are adequate. I don’t understand how anyone expects that there will be adequate security measures put into place if there is no inspection program to ensure compliance, but that is how the water facility security program works.

Part of the reason for that is that the water security program is managed by each State. If the federal government mandated that the States added an inspection program to their current voluntary management of water treatment facilities there would have to be federal funding to support that requirement.

For EPA to have an effective security program that actually ensures that the chemicals used and stored at water facilities are adequately protected from potential terrorist attack they would have to establish an inspection program. To ensure that the inspection force (either federal or State) is adequately prepared to validate security measures, the EPA would have to initiate an inspector training program. If the chemical security program were designed in the way envisioned in S 3598, that training would have to be offered to each State’s inspection force.

Wiki Participation

I think that removing the current exemption of water facilities from CFATS coverage is the most reasonable way of ensuring that the extremely hazardous toxic inhalation hazard chemicals used at many of those facilities are adequately protected. I am also smart enough to know that I don’t have exclusive franchise on chemical security knowledge. Others may have other ideas on how to deal with these issues, and it is inevitable that adding some of those ideas to mine will result in a better legislative product.

That is one of the nice things about this project at WriteTheBillWiki. It allows for a collaborative approach to preparing legislation. Anyone can register with the system and take part in both the discussion surrounding the draft legislation, or even amend the actual language of the bill.

I would certainly like to invite all of my readers to actively participate in this project.

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