There’s no job too dirty for the folks at the Government Accountability Office. Congress asked them, so they’ve explored the terrorist threat to our sewers.
And they found some serious….stuff.
Wastewater treatment is pretty much out of sight, out of mind. Most people don’t want to think about it. And this new GAO report paints a picture of how that seems to be the approach people have taken to securing our sewers from terrorists.
The GAO accesses the security risk to wastewater utilities. It says sewer lines pose threats by allowing terrorists to gain access to buildings or pump in toxic chemicals. And that chemicals stored, used, or transported in the wastewater treatment process could pose a risk if terrorists target them.
The GAO also found a general lack of security awareness in the industry. And that damaging a single part of a wastewater system in some cases could take out the whole system.
Take out a major city’s sewer system, and within days you’ve effectively got a biological attack on your hands.
The report looks at what would be necessary if Congress decides the federal government should take a greater role in protecting the wastewater infrastructure. The GAO examined ideas from loans to tax incentives to pay for improved security. They decided direct grants from Washington to individual wastewater treatment plants would be the most efficient way of directing federal dollars toward better security.
Congress has considered the idea of increased federal involvement in your local treatment plants in the past. This report will help guide them if they take it up again.
Of course, once in, it’ll be hard to get Congress out of the sewer.
[Crossposted at Watching Washington]