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August 17, 2010
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Security & Safety News

EPA Develops Detection Software

Scientists from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Energy (DOE) have collaborated in developing water quality software that enhances a water system’s ability to detect when there has been intentional or unintentional contamination. The Canary software can help detect a wide variety of chemical and biological contaminants, including pesticides, metals and pathogens. Once contamination is detected quickly, a water utility can issue a “Do Not Drink” order to prevent customers from ingesting the water.

"This cutting-edge technology helps to protect all Americans and secure our nation's water supply from threats," said Paul Anastas, assistant administrator for EPA's Office of Research and Development. "The new software also improves our drinking water systems and allows water utilities to quickly advise customers when their water is not safe to drink."

Drinking water utilities use the software in conjunction with a network of water quality sensors to rapidly detect contamination to more accurately assess when and how they need to respond. The software helps to distinguish between natural variation in water quality measurements and hazardous contamination, and sends an alarm to indicate when water utilities should take steps to investigate and respond to potential contamination. In addition to achieving homeland security goals, Canary can be used to enhance day-to-day water quality management, and ensure the safety and security of water for all consumers.

The Greater Cincinnati Water Works is the first utility to pilot the software and has been using Canary to assist in detecting and managing contamination incidents since 2007. The software is currently being evaluated in four other U.S. cities: New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and San Francisco as well as Singapore.

The EPA and the DOE received a 2010 “R&D 100 Award” from R&D Magazine for developing Canary. The R&D 100 awards recognize the top high-technology products of the year.

As a free software tool, Canary is available worldwide to drinking water utilities striving to provide safe water to their customers. The software has been accessed by more than 600 users in 15 countries.

Please click here for more information on Canary. More information on the EPA’s Water Security initiative can be found by clicking here.


EPA Updates Tabletop Exercise Tool for Water Systems

In January 2005, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water released a CD-ROM-based tool to assist drinking water and wastewater utilities and their partners and stakeholders (e.g., the water sector) in planning and conducting tabletop exercises. The EPA has since developed an enhanced tool that incorporates an all-hazards approach to emergency management consistent with the current state of knowledge within the water sector.

The enhanced tool, titled Tabletop Exercise Tool for Water Systems: Emergency Preparedness, Response, and Climate Resiliency (TTX Tool), includes fully-customizable materials users can modify, allowing them to conduct a tabletop exercise to meet their specific needs.

The new TTX Tool is designed to provide the water sector with the necessary resources to plan, conduct and evaluate tabletop exercises. Tabletop exercises allow water systems to practice, test and improve emergency response plans (ERPs) and procedures. The TTX Tool simplifies the process of planning and conducting tabletop exercises, and provides resources that aid in the development of customized scenario-driven, discussion-based tabletop exercises.

The fifteen scenarios in the TTX Tool address an all-hazards approach to emergency preparedness and response, as well as introduce users to the potential impacts of climate change on the water sector. Each scenario contains potential impacts and discussion questions specific to both drinking water and wastewater utilities and also encourages coordination with other organizations that may be involved in the response to a water sector incident. All materials are designed to be consistent with the guidance and terminology of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program (HSEEP).

New training resources assist even the most novice exercise planners and facilitators in designing and executing a successful tabletop exercise. Training resources found on the TTX Tool include presentations that demonstrate how to use the TTX tool, as well as presentations on how to plan, customize, conduct and evaluate an exercise. Additionally, the tool contains informational presentations covering current water sector-related initiatives, such as Water/Wastewater Agency Response Networks (WARNs) and the Incident Command System (ICS). Reference documents and links to relevant Web sites are also included. The resources on the tool equip exercise planners with the information they need to customize an exercise to meet their specific objectives. Additionally, the EPA will be conducting in-person trainings on the tool, as well as a series of WaterISAC webinars.

Currently the tool is only available via hard copy. To request a copy please email.