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Terrorist activities in the United States and abroad have heightened our awareness of the vulnerability of specific aspects of our communities and economy to BCN threats. For example, the possibility exists that terrorists could target water supplies and agricultural livestock, or release agents into ventilation systems in such a way as to disperse a BCN agent. This concern is neither speculation nor the result of theoretical vulnerability analysis; documents found by U.S. troops hunting down al Qaeda members in their mountainous hideouts in Afghanistan suggest that agroterrorism is a plausible terrorist scenario. While searching one such al Qaeda hideout, the U.S. military came across Arabic translations of hundreds of pages of U.S. governmental agricultural documents. Osama bin Laden, himself, has significant training in agricultural methods from his background with various agricultural businesses while in the Sudan. Furthermore, it has been well documented that the September 11 hijackers made efforts to get hold of a crop duster while in Florida. Crop dusters could certainly serve as a simple but effective means of distributing crop, livestock, and human disease or chemical contamination (Fig. 4–1). Al Qaeda has made no secret that it is their intention to cripple the U.S. economy, so targeting of a major component of the U.S. economy certainly has, at the very least, crossed their minds.

Figure 4–1

A crop duster would be a simple means of disseminating agents against crops, livestock, and humans.

Courtesy of the USDA.

This chapter provides a concise overview of potential vulnerabilities in regards to water, air, and food resources and infrastructure with which clinicians ought to be familiar.

The nation’s water supply system is comprised of an elaborate and multifaceted system involving public, private, and quasipublic entities that manage and maintain our water supply to serve industry, agriculture, municipalities, and the general population. The water system infrastructure is composed of four basic components: water sources (in the form of lakes and ponds), water treatment, storage, and distribution. Sources of water include rainwater, underground springs, or surface water reservoirs that are usually dammed by an earth, concrete, or masonry structure and that collect water through stream or surface run off. There are roughly 75,000 dams and reservoirs nationwide.

Water treatment is accomplished in a variety of ways, ranging from no treatment to basic treatment (e.g., chlorination, adjustment of pH, iron removal) to more complex systems where filtration and chemical treatment of surface water exist. Following treatment, water is stored in containment facilities, such as reservoirs, storage tanks, and water towers. From this point, water is distributed through progressively smaller conduits to consumers involving thousands of miles of pipe. Distribution systems include pumping stations, and large water mains running from the source or storage area to increasingly smaller pipes and ultimately ending up at hydrants or the kitchen tap. The complexities of such a system make it vulnerable ...

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