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Speeches By EPA Administrator

 

American Water Works Association's National Water Security Conference, Los Angeles, California

03/25/2003
Remarks of Governor Christine Todd Whitman,Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency,
at the
American Water Works Association = s
National Water Security Conference
Los Angeles

March 25, 2003


Thank you, Jack (Hoffbuhr), for that introduction. I = m pleased to be with you today.

This conference could not be more timely. With the onset of war in Iraq, and the heightened state of security here at home, keeping America = s water infrastructure safe from attack is not just a question of environmental security, it= s a national security imperative as well.

I am pleased to report that the nation = s water sector has done an admirable job responding to the new challenges we have faced since September 11th . Last September, on the first anniversary of the attacks on our country, the Washington Post graded the various parts of the nation = s critical infrastructure on their response to the new demands they face. The water sector earned a solid A B, @ one of the highest grades they awarded any sector.

And while I = m not one who believes everything I read in the newspaper, in this case they got it almost exactly right. From everything we = ve seen, you and your colleagues have taken seriously your responsibility to protect your facilities from terrorism. The only difference is I would have given you at least a B-plus.

We have been pleased to be able to support your efforts, both with funds, with advice, and with expertise. The work we have done together can be a model for other critical infrastructure sectors.

Of course, EPA = s commitment to water security pre-dated September 11th . As a result of Presidential Decision Directives signed in the late nineties, we had begun working with you and others in your industry to evaluate preventive and protective measures that could and should be taken against the possibility of terrorist attacks on the Nation = s water infrastructure.

Immediately following 9-11, I directed that these various efforts be accelerated. I also created a Water Protection Task Force in the Office of Water to coordinate our efforts in this important area. Due to a great deal of hard work and effort, we were able to complete, months ahead of schedule, the development of a vulnerability assessment methodology for water utilities. We were then able to initiate training for operators in the use of the methodology. We also were able to bring the water ISAC (Information Sharing and Analysis Center) on-line months earlier than scheduled.

In addition, the Water Protection Task Force B which has been ably led by Janet Pawlukiewicz B has completed several important documents that have helped define our work and advance yours. Last year, they completed a comprehensive State of the Knowledge assessment, which has been an invaluable tool for guiding our research efforts. They also created and disseminated to utilities the Baseline Threat Information for Vulnerability Assessments of Community Water Systems , which is helping you and your counterparts as you undertake your security work.

On top of all that, thanks to a supplemental appropriation from Congress, $90 million was made available to the Agency to support the development of vulnerability assessments and security enhancements at thousands of individual utilities. We broke all records in getting money out the door to those who needed it. We disbursed in excess of than $50 million to more than 400 of the nation = s largest utilities in just a few short months.

Working with states and technical assistance providers, we also dedicated more than $20 million to support similar efforts at medium and small-sized utilities. Ensuring that these utilities receive the support they need is a real priority for me. We must make certain their needs are not overshadowed by those of the Nation= s largest systems.

Our assigned role as the lead federal agency for the protection of the nation = s water infrastructure was expanded with the enactment of the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness Response Act this past June.

Under this new law, every public drinking water utility that serves 3,300 or more people B that's nearly 9,000 utilities B is required to conduct a vulnerability assessment. They then must revise their existing emergency response plans within 6 months of completing the vulnerability assessment.

The largest utilities are to have completed their assessments and submitted them to EPA no later than the end of this month. We have already received more than one hundred assessments.

I want to allay any concern some may have about the Agency = s ability to handle these assessments in a secure fashion. We have established a rigorous set of protocols to ensure that the vulnerability assessments we receive are invulnerable to release. We are treating these assessments as rigorously as we would treat classified information. They are stored in secure safes in a secure location. We are limiting access to those who hold a current, secret-level security clearance. They will remain secure.

All of the work we are doing has been the result of true partnerships. Working together with state and local governments, and with you, I believe we have made tremendous progress toward our shared goal of reducing the vulnerability of our water infrastructure to attack. And the fact of the matter is you are the ones who are doing most of the work. With 165,000 public water utilities, and 16,000 public wastewater utilities in America, there is simply no way the federal government can get this job done alone.

We have relied very heavily on you and other trade organizations to advance our goals. Here at AWWA, your development of training materials, the support you = ve given to vulnerability assessment training efforts, and conferences such as this, have helped immeasurably in bringing utility operators quickly up to speed on the security challenges we all face.

Your own Research Foundation has been very helpful in identifying and addressing a long list of security-related research and information needs. In fact, it seems to have at least as many projects underway as does EPA in this area.

I should also mention the work done by the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies. As the private sector lead, AMWA was enormously helpful in getting the ISAC up and running as quickly as possible. The ISAC is the federal government= s primary tool for getting homeland security information out to members of the water sector. Last week after the threat was raised to A Orange, @ we used the ISAC to make important and timely information available to water utilities.

Just recently, one of the new senior officials in the Department of Homeland Security pointed to the water ISAC as one of the best among all the critical infrastructure sectors. If your company has not already subscribed to the water ISAC, I urge you to do so.

I have also had the opportunity to visit several water facilities around the country. I= ve been enormously impressed both with the level of commitment and with the efforts that are underway. From the use of such simple steps as increased vigilance to some cutting-edge technological efforts, America = s water sector is meeting its responsibility to the people it serves and to the Nation.

As we look to the future, there = s no doubt we will be doing more to assist you in meeting that responsibility. One of the three areas our new EPA Homeland Security Research Center is focusing on is detection and treatment of chemical and biological contaminants in water supplies. Our scientists and researchers are very interested in improving that capacity, both at the treatment stage and downstream. I hope this work will not only help advance our security goals, but our clean and safe water goals as well.

In addition, we are looking to build partnerships with other nations that have a wealth of experience in meeting the challenges we have only recently faced. We have for example begun to establish a mechanism for sharing information and conducting joint research with water security experts in Israel. Israel has decades of experience in this area, and we hope to be able to utilize that here in the United States.

The most important focus, however, of all our future efforts is you and your counterparts around the Nation. The need to protect our water infrastructure against attack is going to be with us for a long time. We look forward to continuing to support you in any way we can in meeting our shared goal of ensuring the safety and security of America = s water supply.

Thank you.