With the recent terrorist attacks and the constant threat of terrorism, one wonders how long will it be before the terrorists start attacking our water supply.
Over the years, counter-terrorism experts have pointed out that a mass contamination of a major water supply would be “All too easy.”
Terrorism by its very nature is a device to make people feel unsafe and afraid in situations that would normally be comfortable every day parts of our lives. What is more normal and a part of everyday life than turning on the taps in your house?
Throughout history there have been documented incidents where water contamination was used as a weapon in war, or a political device or as a means of social control.
In 1984 members of the Rajneeshee religious cult contaminate a city water supply tank in The Dalles, Oregon, using Salmonella and infecting 750.
In 1992, The Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) put lethal concentrations of potassium cyanide in the water tanks of a Turkish Air Force compound in Istanbul.
In 2000, workers at the Cellatex chemical plant in northern France dumped 5000 litres of sulfuric acid into a tributary of the Meuse River when they were denied workers’ beneﬁts.
So, what if, instead of strapping improvised explosive devices to their chests, extremists began meddling in improvised biological and aquaculture devices? How prepared are our governments for such potential attacks?
There are of course conventional methods for treating and purifying water from the source, such as membrane filtration, chlorination and fluoridation, so something crude like dumping a dozen barrels of biological waste would be quickly detected and dealt with. Also, larger bodies of water that are used for public water are more closely guarded against illegal fouling and dumping so they are kept as clean as possible even before water treatment and decontamination procedures have begun.
The real danger comes when the water has left the treatment facility and has entered in to the distribution system. In many cases’ there are miles and miles of large diameter pipeline between the treatment facility and the taps out which the water flows in countless businesses and residential buildings. What is to stop a terrorist organization infiltrating one of the major distribution line and adding a large concentration of harmful agents that could be virtually undetectable to the human senses? It's a scary scenario but a very realistic one too.