Bill introduced to protect water plants nationwide

U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg has introduced an exhaustive legislative packet that is aimed at protecting the nation’s chemical, drinking water and wastewater facilities from terrorist attacks.

Lautenberg said that while many such plants have already moved towards safer regulations, hundreds of facilities across the country are still vulnerable to potential bioterror attacks. He said that studies by the Congressional Research Service showed more than 90 facilities pose a catastrophic risk to a million or more area residents and workers. Furthermore, an additional 400 facilities each pose a risk to 100,000 or more residents and workers.

“This legislation would close a gap that leaves millions of families vulnerable to an attack on America’s chemical plants and water treatment facilities,” Lautenberg said. “Terrorism experts identified chemical and water plants as one of the top risks to our nation following the September 11th attacks. When companies use chemicals that put thousands of lives at risk, it is essential that they find safer ways to do business. This is commonsense legislation that would ensure a thorough review of risk, and help us move toward more secure plants and safer communities.”  

The proposed legislation would require plants to examine their vulnerabilities and develop strategies to correct them. Changes that can be put into place include reducing the amount of lethal gases stored on-site and minimizing the use of dangerous chlorine gas.

The proposed legislation also aims to protect sensitive security information from disclosure while ensuring information sharing between state and local governments and first-responders. It would also authorize grants to help defray the cost of assessing vulnerabilities, developing security and response plans, and implementing safer measures.

Similar legislation was approved in the U.S. House of Representatives on November 6, 2009.