The UK’s drinking water is at far too great a risk from potential contamination of supply by terrorists, with current systems simply not quick enough to contain a chemical or biological attack, suggests leakage and pressure management specialist IVL Flow control.
According to the firm, water companies are still leaving themselves extremely vulnerable, with the present District Metered Area (DMA) structures too slow to close down or divert something potentially fatal or incapacitating in the network.
“What’s in place at the moment isn’t anywhere near quick enough to cope,” said Craig Stanners, Director of IVL Flow Control. “Those wishing to cause damage to our drinking water would laugh at our response – that we’re waiting five days for results to come back from the lab!”
Instead, claims Stanners, a water quality monitoring system coupled to strategic control nodes/valves is the answer – so that in the event of a water quality failure or terrorist attack, intelligent reasoning would automatically prevent unwanted biological content or chemicals reaching the distribution network.
A project we’re working on…
He added: “We’re currently working on a major industrial installation, where we’ve designed in a preventative valve and penstock contamination system to eliminate any risk whatsoever of hydrocarbons entering the local sewer network – yet we aren’t being called in to protect the public from a potential terrorist wave of water-soluble biological or chemical contaminants. This can’t be right.”
Stanners cited Al-Qaida’s threats to poison drinking water in American and Western cities, as well as arrests made in Jordan of Iraqi agents who attempted to poison the water supply that serves American troops in the eastern Jordanian desert.
“As it stands”, continued Stanners, the contaminant can be detected as it enters the water treatment plant, and even in the very best-case scenario it would then be shut down while the harmful bacteria is neutralized. This would usually result in a ‘boil your water’ alert, but this delayed reaction caused by outdated technology means that the contaminant is undetected and people begin to get sick or die”.
Stanners also pointed to two recent high profile events where power tools had been used to commit major offences, namely the £60M Hatton Garden jewellery heist in London and the escape of two convicted murderers in New York.
“It’s well within a terrorist’s capability to use power tools to drill straight into a trunk main”, he said. “It’s quick – whereas identifying the type of illness and the actual source of the contamination would take a substantial amount of time. The technology to intelligently shut systems down without the public coming to harm is now available, so one has to ask, why take the risk?”