Water Pollution from Terrorism: How to protect yourself

A study released jointly by the EPA and the Department of Homeland Defense on the vulnerability of the nation’s water supply to sabotage by terrorists suggests that in-home treatment systems could be an effective defense against contamination threats. The study was intended to review the state-of-the-art in Point of Use (POU) and Point of Entry (POE) water pollution treatment systems, and determine which technologies were most likely to be effective in protecting the public from water supply-based terrorism. Researchers evaluated the ability of commonly available treatment systems to protect the public from biological, chemical, and nuclear water pollution.

The difference between POU and POE systems lies in how they are used. A POE system filters water at the ‘point of entry’ before it enters a building, POU systems are connected to a sink within a building and filter water only at that point.

The study recommends using a combination of technologies, called “treatment trains” to face the threat of terrorist attack because there is no way to predict which kind of toxin a terrorist group might use.  Researchers stated that:

Prefiltration, Reverse Osmosis, carbon adsorption, and UV disinfection represent the most promising combination of technologies that will likely be effective against the vast majority of potential contaminants, especially during an acute incident.

Of particular interest to researchers in the study was the treatment of biological threats, as they are believed to be the most likely type of weapon that would be used by terrorists. Researchers compiled a list of the features that any treatment system should have in order to be effective against terrorist threats:

  • The system has a greater than 99 percent removal efficiency for chemicals and greater than 3 logs for microbial agents
  • The system must remain mechanically sound and maintain a consistent performance level over time, despite variations in intake water characteristics
  • Manufacturers of these systems must maintain a high level of quality assurance/quality control to ensure confidence among many users
  • The equipment signals the user either by sounding an alarm or by shutting down when the device no longer can achieve desirable removal efficiencies
  • Systems should be easy to install and maintain to encourage continued use
  • Systems have the ability to obtain performance certification
  • Equipment should be readily available and relatively inexpensive
  • Systems must demonstrate an acceptable level of performance under real-agent exposure conditions

Researchers relied heavily on the use of standards set by the NSF/ANSI to establish which equipment would be effective in combating terrorist threats. The standards given in the study include:

  • NSF/ANSI 53 – Drinking water Treatment Units
  • NSF/ANSI 55 – UV microbial water treatment systems
  • NSF/ANSI 58 – Reverse osmosis drinking water systems
  • NSF/ANSI 62 – Drinking water distillation systems

The study recommends that “POE treatment devices could be employed at certain high-risk or sensitive facilities such as hospitals, military bases, police stations, and fire stations” in order to provide “water security benefits”. People interested in having POE treatment systems in their own homes may wish to consider whole home filtration systems such as Life’s Dolphin system, which is certified to be built in accordance with NSF/ANSI standards given in the study.

Life ionizers is the only ionizer maker that provides all of the certified technology quoted in the study to form the “treatment train” needed to combat a water-borne threat in one place. All of our Prefiltration, Reverse Osmosis, carbon adsorption, and UV disinfection technologies conform to the NSF/ANSI standards recommended for countering terrorist threats

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