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EPA Awards $500,000 to Launch Drinking-Water Security Pilot; Consortium on Security Formed

Release Date: 12/12/2002
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(#02130) NEW YORK, N.Y. -- To upgrade the security of the nation’s drinking water systems, U.S. EPA Region 2 has allocated $500,000 to create a pilot project that will provide system operators with real-time information about the safety and quality of their water supplies. The funds have been awarded to the U.S. Geological Survey, which will purchase and set up the monitoring equipment for the pilot project at one or two yet-to-be-chosen drinking water systems in New Jersey.

In order to expedite the real-time monitoring pilot, EPA is working with USGS and the Rutgers University Center for Information, Integration and Connectivity to create a Regional Drinking Water Safety and Security Consortium. To launch the consortium, the principles will sign a Memorandum of Understanding on December 12th at the Hilton Gateway Hotel in Newark, N.J. at 1 p.m.

The Consortium also includes the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, the American Water Works Service Company, the North Jersey District Water Supply Commission and the Passaic Valley Water Commission. The Consortium will also organize workshops and seminars on water security.

“Whether a contaminant enters a water supply system by terrorist action or by accident, it is vital that we have the information to respond quickly,” ; said William Muszynski, Region 2's Deputy Regional Administrator. “That’s why real-time monitoring offers such great promise."

Real-time monitoring will quickly notify water-system operators about a change in the normal conditions of a water source. That will enable operators to address a potentially dangerous situation before a contaminant reaches household taps. Creating a real-time water monitoring system is only now becoming possible because of the emergence of a new generation of sensing and information technologies.These monitoring systems will alert water-system operators to a range of possible threats to human health: the deliberate dumping of contaminants, sewage treatment plant failures, chemical spills, harmful algae blooms and pollutants from stormwater runoff. While the individual technological components for real-time monitoring exist, they need to be tested together, in a real-life setting, to ensure that the entire system functions smoothly and reliably.

The lessons learned from this pilot project will enable water-supply operators across the country to set up similar systems.

The real-time water monitoring project is part of EPA’s efforts to increase the security of the country’s drinking water supply. EPA is also providing grants to large drinking water facilities; supporting the development of tools, training and technical assistance to small and medium utilities; and promoting information sharing and research on treatment and detection methods.