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San Francisco to Test Drinking Water Security System

SAN FRANCISCO, California, May 9, 2008 (ENS) – Improving the security of U.S. drinking water systems has gathered urgency since the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced an $8 million grant to San Francisco to help the city develop and evaluate a contamination warning system for its drinking water supply.

Mayor Gavin Newsom joined Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Regional Administrator Wayne Nastri and San Francisco Public Utilities Commission General Manager Ed Harrington to publicize the new water security pilot project, known as the Water Security Initiative.

The grant funds will allow the San Francisco Public Utility Commission to pilot monitoring, sampling, detection and early warning systems. The $8 million EPA grant will be matched by a $3 million investment from the commission.

“The challenge of protecting our nation’s drinking water systems is not just an EPA challenge, a state challenge, or a San Francisco challenge, it’s everyone’s challenge,” said Wayne Nastri, the U.S. EPA’s administrator for the Pacific Southwest region. “Through technology, innovation and collaboration with pilot projects like this, we can provide clean, safe water for every American.”

“Our Hetch Hetchy water is the cleanest and most pristine drinking water in the nation,” said Mayor Newsom. “With this federal grant, San Francisco can pilot cutting-edge monitoring and detection tools that will help keep our precious drinking water safe from contamination.”

The Hetch Hetchy Reservoir in
California’s Yosemite National
Park is the source of San
Francisco’s drinking water.
(Photo by Steve Pierce)

In March, Newsom directed the Public Utility Commission to develop a 30 year water quality protection plan to evaluate emerging potential contaminants and treatment methods to ensure San Francisco’s tap water remains safe.

“Protecting our nation’s drinking water supplies from contamination – whether naturally occurring or from terrorist acts – must be the shared responsibility of both our federal and local governments,” said Speaker Pelosi, who represents the Bay Area in Congress. “I’m proud that these federal funds will support San Francisco’s efforts to deploy innovative water quality tools and keep our water system safe.”

The San Francisco Public Utility Commission currently tests drinking water more than 90,000 times per year throughout the regional water system using state-of-the-art sampling, detection and analysis tools.

The EPA’s grant will allow the commission to also deploy and pilot new high technology equipment that monitors and detects for new potential contaminants at key locations in the water system.

While specific details about the system will not be made public for security reasons, the contamination warning system to be installed and evaluated by San Francisco involves online water quality monitoring, public health surveillance, sampling and analysis, enhanced security monitoring and consumer complaint surveillance.

The warning system is also designed to be sustainable for long-term operation and to improve water quality management.

The pilot project, is expected to serve as a model for the nation’s drinking water utilities. New York City recently received a similar grant, announced last month.

The San Francisco Public Utility Commission’s Hetch Hetchy regional water system delivers reliable, high quality drinking water to more than 2.4 million Bay Area residents in San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara and Alameda Counties from protected Sierra and Bay Area reservoirs and watersheds.

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