News Briefs: Chemical Mixing Mishap Causes Chlorine Cloud in Virginia

Also in this week's water and wastewater news, a former water manager in California is charged with stealing more than $25 million of water over 23 years after installing an unmetered connection to siphon off a federal canal

Area homes and business were evacuated after a recent chemical incident at a wastewater treatment facility in Bedford, Virginia.

According to a report by WSET News, a chemical delivery was put into the wrong tank at the plant, causing a chlorine gas cloud to form. Now, officials are making sure it won’t happen again.

“We are making sure everything at our plant is properly labeled,” Megan Pittman told WSET. “That we have the right procedures, that we have many steps before that chemical is being put in the tank with future deliveries.”

Cybersecurity Advisory Warns Hackers Can Infiltrate SCADA Systems

The United States government recently issued a joint cybersecurity advisory warning that cybercriminals have found a way to gain full access to multiple industrial control system and SCADA systems, and that they’re targeting specific models of PLCs built by Schneider Electric and OMRON.

“The initial targeting appears to be liquid natural gas and electric community-specific,” says Dragos CEO Robert Lee, according to Security InfoWatch. Dragos contributed to the advisory. “However, the nature of the malware is that it works in a wide variety of industrial controllers and systems. The malware initially targets Schneider Electric and Omron controllers, however, there are no vulnerabilities specific to those product lines.”

Former Water Manager Accused of Stealing $25 Million in Federal Water

The Los Angeles Times reports that the former manager of the Panoche Water District in Central Valley, California, is charged with stealing more than $25 million of water over 23 years.

The indictment charges the now 75-year-old with conspiracy, theft of government property and filing false tax returns.

The theft involved making use of a leaking drain turnout that had been abandoned by the federal government. The former manager, instead of repairing the gate that allowed water to leak into the Panoche Water District, allegedly directed the installation of an open/close gate and a pipe to convey water into the district’s canal.

The indictment alleges that the unmetered water was either sold to customers or pumped back into the federal canal, which allowed the district to collect water credits.

“He used the proceeds of the theft to pay himself and others exorbitant salaries, fringe benefits, and personal expense reimbursements,” prosecutors said, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Documentary Inspires Sewer Investment in Mount Vernon, New York

Months after a CBS Reports documentary titled “Wasteland” aired on Paramount+ and brought awareness to Mount Vernon, New York’s deteriorating sewers, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul has announced a $150 million investment to replace old water and sewer system infrastructure in the city.

At an event at Mount Vernon’s City Hall, the governor also announced the immediate launch of the $7 million Third Street Sewer Project, that when complete, will ensure reliable wastewater service for 500 nearby households currently served by temporary pumps and a makeshift system staged in the street to ensure adequate wastewater collection.

“In too many communities of color like Mount Vernon, critical water infrastructure has been left to fall into disrepair, but today we are setting an example for the nation by advancing environmental justice, improving quality of life for residents, and addressing decades of disinvestment,” Hochul said in a statement. “When I met with Mayor Patterson-Howard and heard about the seriousness of this crisis in her city, I immediately directed my administration to coordinate with the city and the county and right this systemic wrong. I am so proud of our collective and collaborative efforts to deliver this transformative environmental justice victory.”


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