Dan’Yelle and natural disasters. The Federal Water Pollution Control

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dan’Yelle Krause

Water Security: Securing and
Sustaining Water Systems

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January 21, 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Having
access to safe drinking water is a prerequisite to a happy, healthy, and
productive life. Protecting the health of communities, all human activity and
the environment is vital to maintaining a generally high standard of living.
This is done by ensuring that all drinking water and wastewater systems are
treated in such a manner that contributes to this standard of living and
protected against threats. The Water and Wastewater Systems Sector is
vulnerable to many different types of threats, whether intentional or
accidental. These types of threats include contamination with deadly agents;
physical attacks, like gaseous chemicals; and cyberattacks. All of these types
of attacks could cause large scale chaos and deaths across the country.1 It is imperative to make
sure that our water systems are properly maintained and that all waste is
properly disposed of. More than that, the Water and Wastewater Systems in the
United States need to have ample security to ensure the safety from all types
of threats. This is a matter of national security.

Since
it is an absolute necessity to maintain water security, the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA), state and federal agencies, and other organizations
team up to provide water utilities with the proper tools and to make sure that
they are able to identify, prioritize, and respond to any threats that come to
the nation’s drinking water as well as wastewater systems.2 Along with the
collaboration between agencies and organizations, state and federal, there have
been specific laws, policies, and plans put into place as risk management
framework and have been implemented throughout the country ensuring that, even
with the differences of characteristics across the country, they are handled
with care. In an effort to form specific strategies where water security is
concerned, many new laws were put into place, which address the quality of
water and how to keep our water and waste systems safe from attacks and natural
disasters. The Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1948, amended to the Clean
Water Act (CWA) in 1972, the Water Quality Act of 1965, and the Resource
Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) of 1976 were the beginnings of the nation
making an effort to protect national security through water security.

It
is first important to understand the risks that we face as a country to our
national security by way of our Water and Wastewater Systems. The Water and
Wastewater Systems Sector-Specific Plan was created, detailing the risk management
framework by the National Infrastructure Protection Plan. The 2015 Water and
Wastewater Sector-Specific Plan addresses risk-based critical infrastructure
protection strategies for drinking water and wastewater utilities, regulatory
primacy agencies, and an array of technical assistance partners.3 With nearly 153,000 public
drinking water systems and over 16,000 publicly owned wastewater treatment
systems in the United States, more than 80 percent of the nation’s population received
their water from these drinking water systems, and almost 75 percent of the
nation’s population has its sanitary sewage treated by these wastewater
systems.4 What this shows is the
mass amounts of vulnerability faced by the nation’s population in the event
that an attack or natural disaster takes place. If for some reason these water
systems were contaminated, it would devastate the country, leaving the majority
of the population without clean water.

What
types of risks are there for the water systems and how exactly would it effect
the population? Different types of threats include attacks from terrorists,
which could happen in the form of contamination, sabotage, or cyber threats. Natural
disaster threats can come in the form of earthquakes, flooding, and hurricanes.
Infrastructure and workforce threats include pandemic influenza, infrastructure
failures, and retiring workforce. Any and all of these pose real threats that
could have a massive impact on the population. Water infrastructure systems
include surface and ground water sources of untreated water for municipal,
industrial, agricultural, and household needs; dams, reservoirs, aqueducts, and
pipes that contain and transport raw water; treatment facilities that remove
contaminants from raw water; finished water reservoirs; systems that distribute
water to users; and wastewater collection and treatment facilities. 5 Because water infrastructure
systems play such a vital role in the nation, any type of attacks on them would
affect the firefighting workforce, healthcare systems and hospitals, energy
usage throughout the country, food and agriculture and transportation systems. Due
to the widespread chaos that would ensue if the water and waste systems were
compromised, there have been laws and policies put into place to help with
quick recovery. The EPA and DHS work together and ensure that water utilities
are provided with different tools and strategies to improve drinking water and
wastewater systems as well as make sure that there is a resiliency to
disasters, efficient recovery from contaminations and to enhance the
cyber-security of water systems.6

The
Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1948 was one of the first laws in
America to address concerns about clean water and water pollution. In 1972, there
were many amendments made to this act because the population began to
understand the different concerns surrounding water pollution. When it was
amended, the act became known as the Clean Water Act (CWA). The amendments in
1972 established a framework for the nation, which regulated the pollutions in
the waters. It also gave the EPA the authority to implement different programs
that would control pollution and set standards for the wastewater industry. It
kept all of the existing requirements, which set standards for water quality in
regard to contaminants in surface waters as well as made it illegal for anyone
to pollute navigable waters without a permit that specified provisions allowing
them to do so. Sewage treatment plants were constructed with funding under the construction
grants program. Lastly, it was recognized that there was a need to plan for
other critical problems that are posed by nonpoint source pollution, or
pollution caused by rainfall or snowmelt on the ground.7 There have been many
changes throughout the years to amend the Clean Water Act in order to make sure
that water security and quality are at their best.

The
Water Quality Act of 1965 addressed and set the water quality standards for
watersheds and waterways that crossed state boundaries. It also ensured that
there was a federal agency in place to make sure that standards were set and
met when there was no state action being taken. This act also opened up the way
for the Motor Vehicle Air Pollution Control Act, which was one of the first
acts that implemented clean air standards. By the early 1970s, states began to adopt
the new water quality standards, which were reflective of the new information derived
from scientific research. The Water Quality Act also required that all states
create minimum water quality standards to address the portions of inter-state
waters that were within their borders.8 The funding from this was
provided at the municipal level because of the concern over water pollution,
which began in the dumping of municipal sewage. By addressing and setting new
standards for water quality, the amount of pollution in waters decreased and
gave states the opportunity to focus on not only being more environmentally
friendly, but keeping security standards for their states in order so as to
avoid any types of contamination in waters, which could cause widespread illnesses.

The
Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) is another law among the same
group as the Clean Water Act and Water Quality Act and was passed in 1976. This
law is the United States’ primary law that addresses the disposal of solid and
hazardous waste. Much like the other laws that came into play, RCRA was passed
because there were growing concerns over the way that municipal and industrial
waste were disposed of and the way that these disposals could lead to a
national security issue, possibly causing extensive contamination to drinking water
and wastewater, the environment, and energy and natural resources. The Resource
Conservation and Recovery Act first began as the Solid Waste Disposal Act of
1965, but was changed to RCRA after several amendments to the law in 1976.
These amendments were made in concern to the nation’s security and therefore
set new goals to ensure its safety. The new goals included conserving energy
and natural resources, protecting the health of the population and the
environment from any potential problems that came with improper waste disposal,
reducing the amount of waste, and ensuring that waste was disposed of in a way
that was environmentally friendly.9

In
order to make sure that these new goals were met, three new programs were
enacted. RCRA ensured that under the solid waste program, states made detailed
plans explaining how they intend to dispose of nonhazardous solid waste and
municipal solid waste. The states were also made to set up new criteria for the
facilities in which waste was disposed of, such as the municipal solid waste
landfills and other solid waste disposal facilities. Most importantly, this
program made it illegal to openly dispose of solid waste. The other program
that was formed was the hazardous waste program. The goals of this program are
similar to those of the solid waste program, except this is dealing
specifically with hazardous, rather than nonhazardous, waste. This program recognizes
the danger that hazardous waste poses to the population, and in turn the
security of the nation, and therefore comes up with a detailed plan to manage
hazardous waste from the moment it is made to the time of its disposal. The
third program is called the underground storage tank (UST). This program also
focuses on the hazardous waste and regulates the underground storage tanks that
contain these types of substances as well as any petroleum products.  

All
of these new laws and acts that were put into place were done so because of the
concern of the population and Congress in order to protect the future of our
national security by protecting our water systems and environment. What was
understood during this time was the impact that contamination from waste and
hazardous materials could have on our country. Since our wastewater and water
drinking systems are connected so deeply throughout our country, any time of
contamination could quickly and efficiently have a huge impact on the
population, making many people sick and even ending in death. That is why it is
such a priority to ensure that we have these laws in place to continue to
protect our water systems and the environment, which ultimately protects our
nation. After the initial concerns of increasing drinking water and wastewater
security, there have been frequent amendments and efforts made to continue
increasing water security as coordinating this protection is critical to the
nation’s security.

Even
though there have been efforts made to improve the security of our water
systems and environment in general, there have been many cases when the law has
been ignored and therefore gone to court leading to convictions. There are
several cases that outline the issues faced between following the new laws and
policies and how ignoring them can cause issues between all parties involved. On
several occasions people and companies have been convicted and either sentenced
to prison time or large fines, often times, both. For example, in 2013 there
was a case in which a bio-diesel fuel company owner was sentenced to 188 months
in federal prison for crimes connected to an illegal fuels scheme, which
directly violated the Clean Air Act.10

In
this specific case, the owner of a business, Jeffrey David Gunselman, conducted
schemes in order to defraud the EPA. This man stated that he ran a business in
which his facility was producing bio-diesel fuel. However, Gunselman did not
have such a facility at all, but instead he had a business operation that
falsely made renewable fuel credits and then he sold them to other oil
companies and brokers. Among being sentenced to 188 months in a federal prison,
Gunselman was also ordered to pay a fine of $175,000 and more than $54.9
million in restitution. He plead guilty to 51 counts of wire fraud, 24 counts
of money laundering, and four counts of making false statements in violation of
the Clean Air Act.11 These types of violations
of the Clean Air Act have been taken quite seriously, which is obvious from not
only the prison time, but also the monetary restitution and fines.

Another
case that involved not only Clean Air Act violations, but also violations of
the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, is the one in which the Tonawanda
Coke Corporation in New York was convicted. In this particular case, this
corporation got rid of a storage tank that was dismantled, without a permit to
do so. The scrap metal released a coal tar sludge material that tested positive
for benzene.12
This was in direct violation of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act on 3
counts as well as 11 different counts against the Clean Air Act. Again, this
case has not only prison time, but also millions of dollars’ worth of fines.

Although
these cases came with a lot of prison time and fines, one of the largest and
most notable cases is associated with the Deepwater Horizon Explosion and Gulf
Oil Spill in 2010. T well known company BP Exploration and Production Inc., otherwise
known as BP, was involved in the explosion that killed workers on the oil rig, violated
the Clean Water Act, and had a hugely negative effect on the Gulf Coast marine
life, coastal environments, ecosystems, and bird wildlife habitat. This case
was very popular in the media and in 2013, BP was finally fined with $4 billion
in criminal fines and penalties, making this the largest criminal restitution
in American history. This was only the tip of the iceberg though. BP also plead
guilty to 11 counts of manslaughter, one count of felony obstruction of
Congress, and violations of the Clean Water and Migratory Bird Treat Acts.13 The majority of the $4
billion in penalty fines has been used to restore the Gulf Coast region and
improve oil spill prevention as well as response efforts in the Gulf of Mexico.

These
types of cases involve acts that were not intended to harm anyone. As stated
before, our water systems are all very closely linked. This means, if a terrorist
wanted to attack mass amounts of people, doing so through our water system
would have a large-scale effect, quickly and efficiently. After the attacks on
9/11, more security measures began to be taken in regard to our water security
due to the vulnerabilities faced by it. While it is important to understand
that there are careless acts of individuals throughout the country that could
cause contamination to the water as well as natural disasters that are quite
difficult to prevent, there are also the threats of terrorists that could
intentionally use our water systems by means of attack. Water supply was one of
eight critical infrastructure systems identified in President Clinton’s 1998
Presidential Decision Directive 63 (PDD-63)14 in order to make sure it
got the security needed as one of the main infrastructures that could be
vulnerable to intentional acts against them. The EPA was designated as the lead
federal agency that would work closely with the water supply sector. Since
then, there has been a lot of research done on the water sector infrastructure
protection in order to assess any possible risks and to establish new ways to prevent
and prepare for these risks.

In
2002 the Bioterrorism Act came into play and began requiring that drinking
water facilities that served more than 3,000 people would start conducting
vulnerability assessments and develop emergency response plans based on the
assessments. As lead federal liaison, the EPA plays a role in this by making
sure that threats are identified and prioritized, vulnerabilities are evaluated
and consequences are determined, new tools for improved risk management are
created, and better preparedness and plans for reducing the risk of intentional
contamination are made.15

  While
these laws may seem unrelated to homeland security, they are very much a huge
priority. It is clear that our water systems need to be secure from threats,
accidental or intentional, because by negatively affecting our water systems,
the country as a whole would endure a negative impact by way of a large-scale
disaster. There is still a long way to go because there will always be threats
and vulnerabilities to our Water and Wastewater Systems Sector, but by
following the laws set in place and continuing to amend and enforce better
laws, there will be a better sense of security. Being able to prevent threats
from taking place is the first step, but the second, and equally important step
is being prepared with emergency contingency plans in the event of a disaster.

The
attacks on September 11, 2001 made it clear that there were many different institutions,
facilities, and systems in the United States that could be potential targets
for purposeful and malicious attacks on the country. The nation’s water supply
and water quality infrastructure are included in this list of potential targets.
While we are aware that most of the country relies on the same water and waste
systems, it is often forgotten that we also face potential threats to the
water, whether by terrorist attacks, workplace mistakes, or improperly disposed
of waste, or by natural disasters. There are many different types of threats
that our water systems face and because of that, laws and policies have been
put into place and amended throughout the years to ensure that we are
protecting the future of our nation’s security. These water infrastructure systems
are deeply linked with other infrastructure systems, especially electric power
and transportation, as well as the chemical industry which supplies treatment chemicals
making security of all of them an issue. These laws are in place to protect the
security of the nation.16

1 Water and Wastewater Systems
Sector, Department of Homeland Security (2017),
https://www.dhs.gov/water-and-wastewater-systems-sector (last visited Jan 17,
2018).

2 Water System Security and
Resilience in Homeland Security Research, EPA (2016),
https://www.epa.gov/homeland-security-research/water-system-security-and-resilience-homeland-security-research
(last visited Jan 17, 2018).

 

3 2015 Water and Wastewater
Sector-Specific Plan, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (2015),
https://www.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/publications/nipp-ssp-water-2015-508.pdf
(last visited Jan 17, 2018).

4 2015 Water and Wastewater
Sector-Specific Plan, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (2015),
https://www.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/publications/nipp-ssp-water-2015-508.pdf
(last visited Jan 17, 2018).

 

5 Claudia Copeland, Terrorism
and Security Issues Facing the Water Infrastructure Sector Congressional
Research Service (2010), https://fas.org/sgp/crs/terror/RL32189.pdf (last
visited Jan 18, 2018).

 

6 Water System Security and
Resilience in Homeland Security Research, EPA (2016),
https://www.epa.gov/homeland-security-research/water-system-security-and-resilience-homeland-security-research
(last visited Jan 17, 2018).

7 History of the Clean Water Act, EPA (2017),
https://www.epa.gov/laws-regulations/history-clean-water-act (last visited Jan
18, 2018).

 

8 Kathryn Timmerman, Water
Quality Act of 1965 Water Quality Act of 1965,
https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=20&ved=0ahUKEwiLn7eTrOfYAhUDON8KHeQaBRwQFgiVATAT&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwhsapes.pbworks.com%2Ff%2FWater%2BQuality%2BAct%2Bof%2B1965.ppt&usg=AOvVaw1vHdT9SReLGoi-wccclW9b
(last visited Jan 19, 2018).

 

9 EPA History: Resource Conservation
and Recovery Act, EPA (2016),
https://www.epa.gov/history/epa-history-resource-conservation-and-recovery-act
(last visited Jan 19, 2018).

 

10 2013 Major Criminal Cases, EPA (2017),
https://www.epa.gov/enforcement/2013-major-criminal-cases (last visited Jan 20,
2018).

11 2013 Major Criminal Cases, EPA (2017),
https://www.epa.gov/enforcement/2013-major-criminal-cases (last visited Jan 20,
2018).

12 2013 Major Criminal Cases, EPA (2017),
https://www.epa.gov/enforcement/2013-major-criminal-cases (last visited Jan 20,
2018).

 

13 2013 Major Criminal Cases, EPA (2017),
https://www.epa.gov/enforcement/2013-major-criminal-cases (last visited Jan 20,
2018).

 

14 “The Clinton Administration’s
Policy on Critical Infrastructure Protection: Presidential Decision Directive
63,” May 22, 1998; see http://www.fas.org/irp/offdocs/paper598.htm.

15 Water System Security and
Resilience in Homeland Security Research, EPA (2016),
https://www.epa.gov/homeland-security-research/water-system-security-and-resilience-homeland-security-research
(last visited Jan 17, 2018).

 

16 Claudia Copeland, Terrorism
and Security Issues Facing the Water Infrastructure Sector Congressional
Research Service (2010), https://fas.org/sgp/crs/terror/RL32189.pdf (last
visited Jan 18, 2018).