EPA Invests $2 Million in Philadelphia Drinking Water Security

PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania, February 23, 2009 (ENS) – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today presented a $2 million grant to Philadelphia to help the city address the risk of intentional contamination of its drinking water by diseases, pests, or poisonous agents.

The federal agency says it could make a total of $9.5 million available to the city for this project, contingent upon EPA’s budget over the next three years.

The grant will fund the Philadelphia Water Department to pilot monitoring and surveillance components of an early warning system.

“Philadelphia was selected for this pilot because of its existing water quality protection programs and its commitment to put in place the complex systems needed to increase water security,” said William Wisniewski, the U.S. EPA’s acting administrator for the mid-Atlantic region.

Clean drinking water is an essential resource. (Photo credit unknown)

The project, called the Water Security Initiative, was begun during the Bush administration with the first the first contamination warning system pilot established in 2006 in partnership with the City of Cincinnati at the Greater Cincinnati Water Works.

Similar water security pilot grants were awarded by EPA to New York City, San Francisco, and Dallas. A total of $39 million was divided among the four cities, which are required to contribute a 20 percent cost share to fund the project in their city.

The contamination warning system to be developed and evaluated by Philadelphia involves online real-time drinking water monitoring, public health surveillance, laboratory analysis capabilities, enhanced security monitoring and consumer complaint surveillance. The warning system will be designed for long-term operation.

Coordination is critical to effectively detect or respond to contamination incidents.

To ensure effective communication and response, Philadelphia’s Water Department will collaborate with many city and governmental agencies in this pilot including the Philadelphia Department of Public Health, the Office of Emergency Management and Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection.

The 2,000 men and women who work for the Philadelphia Water Department deliver reliable, high-quality drinking water to more than 1.6 million consumers who live or work in the city of Philadelphia.

This Water Security Initiative developed in Philadelphia and the other pilot cities is expected to serve as a model for all the nation’s drinking water utilities.

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