Washington, D.C.-Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the Committee on Environment and Public Works, Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R-R.I.), chairman of the subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife and Water and Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), last night introduced the “Wastewater Treatment Works Security Act.” The bill will enhance and strengthen security at wastewater treatment facilities.
Senator Inhofe, chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee:
“Wastewater security is an essential part of a broad, concerted effort to bolster the nation’s defenses against terrorism. I am pleased to introduce this bill today along with my colleague Senator Chafee. We at the federal level must continue to work with state and local government to provide support to publicly owned wastewater facilities by not imposing one-size fits all, heavy-handed unfunded federal regulations. A recent Government Accountability Office’s (GAO) report confirms that the approach advocated in our bill, similar to previous legislation passed by our Committee and by an overwhelming majority in the House, is the right approach.”
Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R-R.I.), chairman of the subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife and Water:
“Damage to or destruction of the nation's water supply and water quality infrastructure may disrupt the delivery of vital human services in this country, threatening public health and the environment. This legislation would provide critical resources for assessing the vulnerability of wastewater treatment facilities in the event of a natural disaster or intentional harmful act. In addition, this bill would help communities meet the needs identified in these assessments, and help develop emergency response plans should the unthinkable occur.”
Wastewater Treatment Works Security Act:
Defines several terms including a “disruption of service event”, “emergency response plan” and “vulnerability assessment” to include not only intentional harmful acts but natural disasters that might also impact a publicly owned treatment works (POTW)
-According to Government Accountability Office’s (GAO) report on security at wastewater treatment plants 74% of the largest wastewater utilities had either completed, were in the process of completing, or planned to complete a vulnerability assessment. To provide an incentive to the remainder of POTWs, the Wastewater Treatment Works Security Act authorizes the Administrator to provide grants to State, municipality, intermunicipal or interstate Agency or privately owned utility that principally treats municipal wastewater to conduct vulnerability assessments.
-For those communities that have completed a vulnerability assessment and to provide additional incentive to those who have not, upon certification that a vulnerability assessment has been completed, applicants are eligible for grants to address security needs identified in the assessment.
-The bill further authorizes funds to be used for the development, expansion or upgrading of an emergency response plan, and the voluntary creation by a State or network of treatment works, or the voluntary participation in, a mutual aid and emergency network preparedness agreement.
-Maintains local control over security information
-Provides technical assistance to small treatment works to conduct vulnerability assessments and meet needs identified in the assessments
-Authorizes funds to update the VSAT, a vulnerability assessment tool used by many wastewater utilities
-Authorizes a total of $220 million to fund these initiatives
-Responds to concerns raised in the GAO report about the lack of attention given to collection systems
-The bill also authorizes EPA to research the affordability, effectiveness and limitations of each treatment technology.