'Municipalities should always monitor their water quality'

Expert tells 'Post': "Under current regulations, there’s no way to immediately verify claims that the water supply may have been poisoned."

By EHUD ZION WALDOKS
January 17, 2011 02:18
4 minute read.
Water

Water 521. (photo credit: Courtesy)

 
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The government should adopt new regulations requiring all water corporations to continuously monitor the quality of the water, Dovev Lewinsohn, CEO of Whitewater Security and Checklight, told The Jerusalem Post last week.

At present, only Mekorot has installed the technology capable of constantly monitoring water quality throughout its system of pipes and pumps, according to Lewinsohn.

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However, even Mekorot hasn’t completely protected its system and it only delivers water to the gates of the city, where the local entity takes over.

Hagihon, Jerusalem’s water corporation, also has quite advanced systems, but most of the other water corporations do not, he added.

“Let’s say someone has called up the newspapers and said, ‘I’ve dumped poison in two spots in the Tel Aviv water system.’ The water corporation has no way to verify whether he has or hasn’t,” Lewinsohn said by way of illustration.

“They would have to take samples from various parts of the waterworks, and send them to the laboratory for analysis. That could take 24, 48, or 72 hours depending upon what tests need to be run,” he continued.

“During that time, all of the Dan Region would be without water. Factories, hospitals, the populace going without water for a day? That’s a catastrophic scenario that Israel is not prepared for,” he claimed.



The Health Ministry, in response to a query from the Post, said, “there is constant sampling for chlorine, salinity, and turbidity in many of Mekorot’s large facilities and the desalination and filtering plants even though there are no regulations requiring it.

“In the proposed update of the regulations that the Health Ministry has submitted to the Knesset Internal Affairs and Environment Committee, there is a demand for continuous sampling of disinfectants (such as chlorine) as well as demands for continuous sampling in filtering and desalination plants of certain parameters.”

However, according to the ministry’s response, even the proposed update of the regulations says nothing about municipal water systems.

“The regulations haven’t included continuous monitoring because the technology wasn’t available, but now it is,” according to Lewinsohn.

Israel is actually considered a world leader in water security, Lewinsohn said, with an accumulation of experience and techniques in the hands of Mekorot and the Water Authority.

“Israel is even the head of the ISO (International Organization for Standardization) committee on water security standards,” he added.

Yet, as is the case with many Israeli-invented water technologies, what is sold abroad finds little application at home.

Whitewater Security provides a number of technological systems that both monitor systems and provide command and control to water system operators. Checklight, a related startup, is working on a test to determine if water has been contaminated that produces results within minutes instead of days.

Water security does not just mean preventing terror attacks on the water system. Its purpose is to guard against all types of contamination – both intentional and unintentional, Lewinsohn said.

Israel is far from immune to water quality events. Just recently, fuel was accidentally poured into the water supply in Safed. Ironically, Peleg Hagalil, the water corporation with responsibility for the city and its environs, had already issued a tender for online continuous monitoring when the contamination occurred.

“In their defense, the contamination didn’t actually happen in their facilities and they were quite respectably fast in organizing water for the city’s residents,” he commented.

Once continuous monitoring is installed, there is a further hurdle to overcome, Lewinsohn pointed out.

“There are places with primitive monitoring for things like chlorine, turbidity, Ph, and conductivity. But the corporations don’t have the technology to interpret that data to make a decision in real time. The problem is that some of the monitors are not completely reliable and the data management system needs to be able to weed the false alarms out from the real ones.

“Our Bluebox system reduces the number of false alarms and can even detect anomalies before an alarm is triggered. The US EPA is looking into purchasing some,” he said.

An additional related problem that water corporations often encounter is that they have a hard time handling a crisis because their systems aren’t linked together, Lewinsohn said. There are many different systems in use to manage water but they don’t communicate with one another.

Whitewater Security offers a Water Event Management System that not only links all the systems to one central screen; it also automates some of the responses and prompts you with suggested options in the middle of a crisis.

“It has a pool of procedures. If X occurs, then you need to do Y. The system triggers automatic procedures,” he explained.

Although only a three-year-old startup, Whitewater Security has become one of the global leading players, according to Lewinsohn.

The global market is really taking an interest, and it’s time the local market wises up and plugs the cracks in its protection of our drinking water, Lewinsohn declared.

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