The authors report that such an event would cause flooding and could kill many people (Copeland & Cody 2003).
The authors further assert that Bioterrorism or chemical threats could deliver massive contamination by small amounts of microbiological agents or toxic chemicals, and could endanger the public health of thousands. While some experts believe that risks to water systems actually are small, because it would be difficult to introduce sufficient quantities of agents to cause widespread harm, concern and heightened awareness of potential problems are apparent. Characteristics that are relevant to a biological agent's potential as a weapon include its stability in a drinking water system, virulence, culturability in the quantity required, and resistance to detection and treatment. Cyber attacks on computer operations can affect an entire infrastructure network, and hacking in water utility systems could result in theft or corruption of information or denial and disruption of service (Copeland & Cody 2003)."
Indeed an article found in Harvard Journal of Law and Publuc Policy asserts that the use of biological weapons could easily occur in America (Kellman, 2001). However, the author also explains that food sources may be more vulnerable to contamination and less likely to be the method used by terrorists (Kellman, 2001). The author explains that even though it would be easy to add a contaminating agent to the food supply, the results of such an attack would not be catastrophic and may only affect a few dozen people (Kellman, 2001).
In addition the author asserts that the contamination of the water supply in the United States and other countries with water purification systems would be extremely difficult (Kellman, 2001). As it relate particularly to Chicago, there were neo-Nazis that were arrested in 1972 possessing thirty to forty kilograms of typhoid bacteria (Kellman, 2001). The group was planning to introduce the typhoid bacteria into the water supply (Kellman, 2001).
The group arrested was composed of students that actually cultivated the disease at their school's laboratory (Kellman, 2001). However, even if they had succeeded in their endeavor the bacteria would have been killed by the chlorination process (Kellman, 2001). Here in lies the issue with most terror attacks involving the nation's water supply.
Protecting these systems
The sheer number of water systems that exist make them very difficult to protect from the threat of terrorism (Coleman 2005).
As a result of the threat that exists the author explains that following the terrorists attacks of 2001 the Environmental Protection Agency begin to work in collaboration with water suppliers to guarantee a safe water supply for the country (Coleman 2005). This collaboration allows the EPA to provide water supplies with technical training, scientific information and assessments of vulnerability (Coleman 2005). In addition water suppliers are provided with emergency response strategies in a terrorist attack does take place. The EPA has also established a special task force to improve the efforts that have already been made to secure water systems throughout the country (Coleman 2005).
In addition to the aforementioned steps that have been taken by the EPA (Foran and Brosnan 2000) report that early warning systems may also be beneficial as it relates to protecting water systems throughout the country. These warning systems are useful in identifying high and low impact contamination which is inclusive of chemical radiation and microbial contaminants (Foran and Brosnan 2000). Such warning systems can detect thee contaminants in distribution systems and source water and allow local officials to respond and avoid customer exposure to such contaminants (Foran and Brosnan 2000).
The authors further explain that although many water systems do have surveillance in place associated with infectious diseases and various other health effects, such surveillance is not a substitute for an early warning system because the surveillance systems can only detect such things once they have already been in the water for quite some time (Foran and Brosnan 2000). On the contrary a warning system gives authorities enough time to "warn" the public of a problem before they are exposed to a biological or chemical agent, so that a negative situation can be avoided (Foran and Brosnan 2000).
The authors further asserts that the creation and implementation of warning systems can be expensive and require a great deal of planning and labor (Foran and Brosnan 2000). In most cases there is a great deal of support of warning systems as it relates to the local public. The authors assert that this support is more likely when "the cost and frequency of false positives is less than the benefits of averting true positives. When, on the other hand, the cost of monitoring exceeds any benefit from the use of an EWS, it is unlikely that there will be support for the system (Foran and Brosnan 2000)."
The authors further assert that the difference associated with the benefits and costs that is necessary to create an emergency warning system has to be identifies at the local level and it is likely to differe from place to place (Foran and Brosnan 2000). In addition the local support for such a system increases as the risk of a terrorist attack against the water supply increases (Foran and Brosnan 2000). For instance water systems that supply a large number of people are more likely to have a great deal of local support because residents are more likely to believe that the water systems are vulnerable to attack and that such an emergency warning system is necessary (Foran and Brosnan 2000). The authors also explain that the "Risk or the perception of risk will also increase as the presence or effectiveness of existing barriers (e.g., chlorination for pathogens) decreases, as the seriousness (perceived or real) of the potential illness increases, and as the size of the affected population increases (among others) (Foran and Brosnan 2000)."
The article further asserts that apart from the aforemention cost benefit ratio, an emergency warning system has to be effective (Foran and Brosnan 2000). This effectiveness is dependent upon sensitivity, specificity, reproducibility, and verifiability (Foran and Brosnan 2000). In addition such a system must be maintained by appropriate quality assurance/quality control procedures (Foran and Brosnan 2000). In addition this type of a system should be instrumental in reducing the likelihood for high numbers of false negative and false positive outcomes (Foran and Brosnan 2000).
In addition, openness for an Emergancy Warning System and their associated costs will increase as the additional benefits of the system arise (Foran and Brosnan
For instance emergency systems that have the ability to detect and warn the city of contaminants, or that supply substantial coverage of through various parameters, will be more attractive than emergency warning systems that supply only limited coverage or detect few contaminants (Foran and Brosnan 2000). With this being understood it is probable that Emergency warning systems that supply extensive coverage will be more expensive to develop and manage than emergency warning systems that have only limited coverage (Foran and Brosnan 2000). As a result of this scenario, the cost-benefit ratio for each system and the conclusions drawn regarding desirability must be evaluated by local municipalities (Foran and Brosnan 2000).
The author finally explains that when these systems are simple to implement and operate and provide continuous monitoring, using standardized analytical equipment, and improve source identification desirability is usually increased (Foran and Brosnan 2000). Additionally, constant monitoring decreases the likelihood that contamination events will be overlooked; however it increases the expense associated with functions such as equipment maintenance and data interpretation (Foran and Brosnan 2000). On the other hand standardized equipment can easily be distributed among users and restores and/or replaced than can custom equipment (Foran and Brosnan 2000).
Chicago Water Systems Vulnerability
As we have already discussed water systems in large metropolitan areas are subject to certain vulnerabilities, the city of Chicago is no exception. Chicago system is particularly vulnerable because the water systems in Chicago involve the great lakes which is a freshwater supply for a significant number of people. In addition, Chicago is vulnerable to terrorist attacks because it is an area with a large population that also has landmarks that are significant aspects of American history and society. Although a terrorist attack has not yet occurred in Chicago, there is a significant possibility that terrorists may target this city.
Just as with other systems in large metropolitan areas Chicago's water supply system is vast which can make security complicated and difficult to accomplish. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the water supply for the city of Chicago comes from the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (District) (Project XL). This facility is a Publicly Owned Treatment Works. The facility is responsible for treating wastewaters from commercial, domestic, and industrial sources within Chicago its surrounding areas (Project XL). In addition via the Industrial Pretreatment Program, the District manages process wastewater discharges from 535 Significant Industrial Users (SIU), which is inclusive of 362 Categorical Industrial Users (CIU) (Project XL).