When Things Go Bump In The Night


A break-in, vandalism or tampering with a water system, infrastructure or a watershed catchment area is cause for immediate action by the water district management.

Water systems should have a written plan with easy to follow instructions at strategic points in the facility. Emergency kits should be in all key vehicles for ready access. Ensure tools such as handles for isolation valves are easily accessible.


Emergency drills and checks on equipment and supplies on a routine basis should be a normal part of operations.

Protocol Stages:

  1. Ensure safety of personnel
  2. Identification of the problem, location & type of incident
  3. Notify senior managers, health authorities and police
  4. Ensure safety of equipment
  5. Isolation and/or Containment
  6. Documentation
  7. Analysis
  8. Cleanup

Emergency Kits:

Evaluate each site and store or carry appropriate gear to deal with events that may be unique to a given location such as chlorine gas evolution from storage of liquid or solid chlorine materials.

Evaluate operating protocols to minimize access or tampering. Chemical feed ports should ALWAYS be in a locked position.

Assemble a team of personnel and contacts that have experience with the water system and trouble-shooting. The phone numbers should be in all kits and emergency station locations.

General Kits should include the following:

  1. Film camera (disposable) – note digital photographs are NOT suitable as evidence in court.
  2. Note book to record:
    · photographs
    · description of event
    · names
    · who noted the problem
    · who has responded
    · who has been notified + date & time
  3. Box of new baggies
  4. List of Contacts:
    · Medical
    · Fire/Emergency
    · Manager(s)
    · Operators
    · Health Officials
  5. Respirators with appropriate cartridges for areas that may have chlorine, ammonia or hydrogen sulfide gas.
    Note: respirators must be appropriate size for the individual responders and they must be trained in respirator use.
  6. Spill kit and or containment barriers

Emergency Event Bottles

Kit Includes:

  • 1x 500mL wide mouth glass
  • 1x 500mL amber glass
  • 2x 1L HDPE
  • 1x 250mL HDPE with ZnAc
  • 2x 40mL P&T with NaThio
  • 2x 250mL HDPE
  • 2x 40mL P&T with HCl
  • 1x 250mL micro + NaThio

Samples representing the problem should be taken using the bottles in the emergency kit. Take care to label them with site, date and time. Take as many samples as required. Bottles are cheap and easily replaced. Discuss the problem with a laboratory manager. A competent laboratory will sort and store materials for later examination as information becomes available and as use as evidence.

Laboratory Analysis:

  1. Obvious tampering:
    Macroscopic & microscopic examination of sample(s). Reporting: inorganic, organic, micro-biological content. Follow through as the sample dictates to confirm initial findings and specify contaminants.
  2. Contaminant(s) are not Obvious

    Begin with the following tests:
    pH, Chloride, EC, Sulfate, Turbidity, Colour, Total Organic Carbon

    These values should be compared to baseline data on file with the Water District.

    Parallel tests or follow through tests on the beginning tests will be:
    metals scan containing Al, Sb, As, Ba, Be, B, Cd, Ca, Cr, Co, Cu, Au, Fe, La, Pb, Mg, Mn, Mo, Ni, P, K, Si, Ag, Na, Sr, Ti, W, V, Zn Volatile organic compounds.

    Additional level of tests would involve bio-assays containing plant (C4 & C5) and Daphnid sensitivity. These tests would be required if there was evidence of toxicity. Scans for contaminants may also include LCMS, GCMS or HPLCMS.
  3. Ensuring the system &/or area is safe.
    Once the problem has been identified and isolated, indicator parameters are selected that will confirm the system safety or extent of spread.
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