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.
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 ...