Water Safety

The Laurens CPW has always worked to ensure the quality of your drinking water supply. However, in the wake of the 9/11 attacks we are working closely with EPA, SCDHEC and others with the goal of undertaking the steps to understand vulnerable points and to mitigate the threat from terrorist attacks as quickly as possible.

The CPW is one of approximately 168,000 public water systems nationwide. Even before 9/11, the CPW was required to have an emergency response plan. This plan provides for shutting down the system, notifying the public of any emergency steps they might need to take, and providing alternate sources of water. An extensive emergency response system is in place in which EPA, SCDHEC and others are prepared to respond to a drinking water emergency should an incident occur. Through existing procedures, the CPW would work closely with the EPA, the law enforcement community, the Dept of Defense, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and SCDHEC to minimize the effects of an attack.

The following questions have been asked by some concerned citizens:

Q: Is the nation's water supply safe from terrorist attack?

A: In general, the threat of contamination of drinking water through terrorist activities is small. Most contaminants would need to be used in very large quantities, thereby minimizing an actual threat. Treatment processes already in place will deactivate many contaminants.

Q: Could a small amount of biological or chemical agent introduced into a source of water contaminate a whole city's drinking water supply?

A: Not likely. Over the years, EPA, with other federal experts at the Centers for Disease Control and the Dept of the Army, has studied chemical and biological threats to water. They have consistently found that it would take very large amounts of a contaminant to threaten the safety of a water system. Because of increased security at water reservoirs and utilities around the country-and because people are being extra vigilant as well-it would be difficult for someone to introduce the quantities needed to contaminate a system without being detected. In addition, should a contaminant be introduced, the treatment system already in place for treating drinking water before it comes out of the tap will, in many cases, remove the immediate threat to public health.

So what can the public do to help? Vigilance is the key. You should be suspicious of anyone asking for details about the water system such as the location of raw water sources, treatment facilities, or distribution facilities. You should also be concerned about persons asking questions regarding system operations personnel, their names, addresses, working hours, etc. You should be watchful of persons in the vicinity of parts of the water distribution system such as hydrants and water tanks.

You should report criminal threats, suspicious behavior, or attacks on water supply facilities immediately to law enforcement officials and the Laurens Commission of Public Works.