WASHINGTON, D.C.--Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, and Sen. Jim Jeffords (I-VT.), the committee’s Ranking Member, commented today on a General Accounting Office (GAO) report regarding wastewater security. The report examined how best the federal government should spend its limited resources if municipalities request federal financial assistance in meeting their security needs. “Congress has been asked by municipalities for assistance in meeting their wastewater security needs in this post 9-11 environment,” Senator Inhofe said. “As we continue to evaluate which sectors most need our assistance and how to spend our limited resources within those sectors, this report will provide valuable insights into where best to spend federal dollars.” Senator Jeffords said, “This report highlights the vulnerability of our nation’s wastewater systems and recommends that we take action to protect them now. The potential damage and interruption to our wastewater treatment system is a significant risk to public health and safety.” GAO has compiled industry experts’ views on three questions: 1) the key security-related vulnerabilities of drinking water systems; 2) the criteria for determining how federal funds should be allocated among drinking water systems to improve their security; and 3) specific activities the federal government should support to improve drinking water security. The report concludes that collection systems' networks of sewers are among the most vulnerable physical components of wastewater utilities. The panelists argued that the sewers can be used to gain access to intended targets or convey dangerous substances that may cause explosions throughout the system. Other significant vulnerabilities include treatment chemicals stored on site; the treatment plants themselves and their control systems. In addition, the report identified several areas, which most warranted federal financial support. These include replacing gaseous chemicals with less harmful alternatives, improving state, local and regional collaboration and completing vulnerability assessments for individual wastewater systems. The report also calls for more training opportunities for wastewater utility operators as well hardening facilities against attack and increasing research and development to improve detection, assessment and response. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is the lead agency for wastewater security. Acting under the authority of the Presidential Decision Directive 63, EPA has distributed limited funding and extensive information to the industry on enhancing security.