May 2, 2013 by Vance Taylor

In an era of diminished budgets and vanishing security grants, a recent break in at the Carters Lake Water Treatment Plant in Georgia highlights how the federal government is leaving small water systems, and the communities they serve, hanging in the wind.

As indicated by the plant’s General Manager, someone turned the system’s chlorine feed “too high” and set the fluoride feed “too low.” While the affected water never left the plant, the incident certainly highlights the very real potential to harm people by tampering with their water.

Small systems often serve rural, economically depressed areas. They don’t have enough ratepayers to cover the cost of doing business, let alone the costs associated with upgrading their security systems. And with no tax base, an inability to issue bonds, and the disappearance of funding from sources like the DHS Buffer Zone Protection Program, small systems are left to fend for themselves and hope for the best.

How sophisticated was the break in at Carters Lake Plant? The facility’s chlorine equipment is in a locked room, while the fluoride feed is not, and since there are no video cameras, it didn’t exactly take a criminal mastermind to pull off the job.

Now, I’m not suggesting DHS throw obscene amounts of money at rural water systems, but I would argue that these systems can make major strides with small amounts of money. Helping pay for new locks and some video feeds shouldn’t be seen as something that’s going to financially ruin our federal partners. Providing such assistance would go a long way towards protecting the many communities served by systems, such as the Carters Lake Plant.

According to the General Manager, the plant will be back in operation by the end of the week, though without any resources to shore up its security posture, there’s no telling how long it will be up and running before it gets hit again.


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