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EPA Awards $489,000 To Massachusetts for Drinking Water Security; Includes $115,000 to City of Worcester

Release Date: 11/14/2002
Contact Information: Peyton Fleming, EPA Press Office, 617-918-1008

WORCESTER - The US Environmental Protection Agency announced today that it has awarded $259,000 to the state of Massachusetts and $115,000 to both the Worcester Department of Public Works and the Springfield Water and Sewer Commission for improving drinking water security.

Jane Downing, associate director of drinking water policy at EPA's New England Office, announced the grants during a trip to Worcester to tour the city's water filtration plant.

The $259,000 to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection will support training and technical assistance to small and medium drinking water systems – those serving 3,300 to 100,000 people. These activities will focus on completing assessments of the system's vulnerability, which will help water utilities and local emergency officials delay, detect and respond to drinking water emergencies. EPA also awarded $115,000 to the Springfield Water and Sewer Commission.

Worcester's grant will be used to assess the vulnerability of the drinking water system to attack or other security breaches. Recent federal legislation – the Bioterrorism Act of 2002 – requires utilities to assess their vulnerabilities and prepare emergency response plans.

"The events of Sept. 11 taught us that drinking water security is a matter for each and every one of us," said Downing, during her tour of Worcester's water system. "Water utilities like the Worcester Department of Public Works have stepped up their efforts to prevent and respond to emergencies. This grant will help Worcester examine its system to ensure that everything possible is being done to protect the drinking water supply for the system's 165,000 users."

"Worcester is a big municipality and our security issues cost a lot of money," said Konstantin Eliadi, director of water operations at the Worcester DPW. "Every little bit helps and this is going to go a long way to make our system more secure."

"Massachusetts water suppliers have been working hard to protect drinking water sources for thousands of residents," said Martin Suuberg, director of DEP's Central Regional Office in Worcester. "However, we must continue to be diligent about making security improvements and reducing threats from terrorism. This grant will help ensure the long-term security of the Worcester water supply at a time when DEP resources and staffing have been severely impacted by state budget cuts."

In the wake of Sept. 11, EPA has been working closely with states and utilities to improve drinking water security. In addition to grants for preparedness planning like those announced today, EPA has trained more than 1,500 operators at 18 workshops across the region.

Today's grant to the Worcester Department of Public Works is among $53 million EPA has awarded nationwide for drinking water security at large systems. EPA also awarded $5 million nationwide to states to enhance state water security coordination, and about $17 million to states to train and assist small- and medium-sized systems with drinking water security.

The Worcester Department of Public Works serves a regional population of about 165,000, including the city of Worcester, as well as the towns of Paxton and parts of Holden and Auburn. The system has an average daily consumption of 23 million gallons.