News Briefs: Former Kansas Operator Faces Prison for Remotely Tampering With Disinfection

Also in this week's sewer and water news, researchers are working to track the release of nutrients into Tampa Bay after a recent incident at a phosphate processing plant reservoir in Piney Point, Florida

A former water treatment plant worker in Kansas is facing up to 25 years in federal prison for breaking into the plant’s computer network two years ago.

The 22-year-old employee had quit his job at the plant shortly before the incident, and used his knowledge to remotely access the computer system and disable cleaning and disinfecting processes, according to an indictment. One of the former employee’s duties had been remotely logging into the treatment plant’s system and monitoring after hours, according to Gizmodo.

He’s being charged with one count of tampering with a public water system and one count of reckless damage to a protected computer during unauthorized access.

PBS Article Examines How Wastewater Infrastructure Failures Impact Citizens

PBS recently featured a high-profile article titled “Wastewater is the infrastructure crisis people don’t want to talk about,” which examines the ways water/wastewater infrastructure failures are impacting lives in America.

The article includes an interview with author Catherine Coleman Flowers, who published a book in 2020 drawing attention to systemic inequalities that prevent poor and marginalized communities from gaining access to quality water/wastewater infrastructure.

According to PBS, the turning point for Coleman Flowers came when she returned home to work as an economic development coordinator in Lowndes County, Alabama — a region well-known for its failing wastewater infrastructure. Read the article here.

Scientists Monitoring Water Quality in Tampa Bay After Reservoir Incident

Researchers are working to track the release of nutrients into Tampa Bay after the recent reservoir incident at a phosphate processing plant in Piney Point, Florida. Scientists are concerned that the release of 173 million gallons of nutrient-rich wastewater could contribute to toxic algae blooms like the red tide.

While the released wastewater meets most water quality standards according to the state’s governor, it was noted to have elevated levels of nitrogen and phosphorus.

In response, the University of South Florida’s College of Marine Science is extensively monitoring water quality in Tampa Bay, according to CNN, although it will likely be weeks or months before researchers know the full scope of the effects.


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