City gets $115,000 to help plan water security

By SYLVIA WOOD, Staff writer
First published: Wednesday, July 17, 2002

The city has received a $115,000 federal grant to help protect its reservoir water system against terrorist attacks.

Albany was one of 400 water suppliers across the country to share $53 million distributed by the Environmental Protection Agency for "water security planning."

Water Commissioner Robert F. Cross said the money will pay for a consulting firm to pinpoint security flaws in the system, which supplies an average of 20 million gallons of fresh water daily to the city alone.

Another four million gallons are sold daily to Guilderland and Bethlehem.

"We've been working very hard since Sept. 11 to ensure the integrity of the water system," Cross said. "We've done a lot of things, but we want to make sure we've done everything we can do."

In the months following the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks, the city spent $900,000 on round-the-clock security patrols and the installation of video cameras, motion detectors, lighting and fencing at its reservoirs in Coeymans, Westerlo and Loudonville as well as its filtration plant in Feura Bush.

"This year, we expect that an additional $1.5 million will be needed for staffing and several projects, all designed to reduce the vulnerability of our system to attack," said Mayor Jerry Jennings.

Jennings said the EPA grant might actually help the water system come up with more economical ways to address security concerns, including improved technology.

Users of the Albany water system have already paid for many of the new security initiatives with a 15 percent rate hike last year, much of which went to cover the cost of additional guards.

Cross said he has not yet made a final decision on what company to hire to conduct the assessment but wanted to move ahead as soon as possible. Although the water system has not been the target of any particular threats in recent months, State Police have arrested about 30 trespassers at the Alcove reservoir since Sept. 11.

At least one other city site considered vulnerable to terrorist attacks is also planning a security assessment. The Port of Albany will also hire a firm to point out potential problems, but without the help of a federal grant, Cross said.