News Feature | August 21, 2014

Obama Considers Anti-Terrorism Standards For Water Utilities

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,

Are water and wastewater utilities about to face regulatory action from the Department of Homeland Security?

A federal working group focused on terrorist threats recently suggested changes to how water and wastewater treatment facilities are regulated. If enacted, the changes could result in greater compliance burdens for treatment facilities. 

The inter-agency working group, created by President Obama, released a report in May on how to improve the safety of chemical facilities in the face of terrorist threats. Water and wastewater treatment facilities were part of the focus since they "may present attractive terrorist targets due to their large stores of potentially high-risk chemicals and their proximities to population centers," the report said. 

The report called for "the elimination of an exemption currently enjoyed by water and wastewater treatment facilities from the Chemical Facility and Anti-Terrorism Standards," according to an analysis by lawyer from Best Best & Krieger, published by JD Supra Business Advisor. 

The Chemical Facility and Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) are designed to "enhance the security of the lowering the risk posed by certain chemical facilities." 

The upshot?

"Removal of the CFATS exemption could burden [water and wastewater treatment facilities] with additional costs and obligations as they would be subject to Department of Homeland Security regulations in addition to current Environmental Protection Agency standards," the analysis said.

What will happen if the exemption is eliminated?

"Facilities with identified security risks could face additional CFATS requirements, such as: Completion of a lengthy and time intensive security vulnerability assessment; Development and implementation of a site security plan requiring preparedness planning and risk identification related to 18 performance standards; Adherence with record keeping, training, security exercise and inspection responsibilities; and Harsh penalties for non-compliance," the analysis said. 

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