Congress advised on water treatment protection

Congress has been advised by the American Water Works Association that any new chemical security legislation needs to reflect local water experts' needs to make key treatment decisions in an effort to protect sensitive information from non-essential personnel.

The American Water Works Association, in a statement to the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, said that “it does not make sense (and could cause harm) to legislate outcomes which prohibit the use of particular chemicals, including chlorine gas.”

The AWWA's letter was submitted concurrently with the "Chemical Security: Assessing Progress and Charting a Path Forward" committee hearing.

“As everyday guardians of public health and safety, water and wastewater professionals share Congress’s desire for smart chemical security policy,” AWWA Deputy Executive Director Tom Curtis told “Water utilities are committed to measures that reduce risks from terrorism and natural disasters. We are equally committed to protecting drinking water from the risk of contamination.”

A new chemical security program for water and wastewater utilities under the Environmental Protection Agency will be created as a result of H.R. 2868, which was passed last fall by the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill, with regulatory process input provided by the Department of Homeland Security, will place final decisions on materials or processes used by a water utility, primarily disinfectants.

The AWWA, in its letter, noted that the water sector has already addressed a broad range of security concerns through vulnerability assessments and emergency response plans that were required under the Public Health Protection and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002.