Terrorists Could Tap Web to Poison Drinking Water
By Stew Magnuson and Matthew Rusling
Militants could use the Internet to learn how to poison the water distribution system, experts said.
Terrorists could easily read chemical companies’ open access websites to view information on the toxicity level of everything from herbicides to industrial substances, said Dan Kroll, chief scientist at Hach Homeland Security Technologies.
Information on what chemicals to use, how much and how to inject them into the water supply is “all pretty much there [on the Web],” Kroll said at the GovSec conference in Washington, D.C.
Adding to the danger is that some high level al-Qaida operatives have degrees in chemistry, he noted. Several videos captured in Afghanistan also showed terrorists conducting experiments using cyanide on dogs. “It seemed like they knew what they were doing,” he said.
Luckily, water sources such as reservoirs are safe, as most harmful chemicals would be removed or deactivated during the treatment process, he said. “It would take a truck load of cyanide to poison a reservoir,” he added.
The water distribution system, however, is vulnerable. Many water safety association sites post information online on how to prevent accidental poisoning.
A terrorist could use this information to learn how to contaminate the system with deadly chemicals, although it may take large amounts of substances to cause mass casualties, he said.
And many harmful toxins would remain in the pipes for several days, as they would be difficult to flush out using just water.
“Once it is in distribution system, there is nothing authorities can do about it,” Kroll said.