Your City’s Water Supply Could Be Targeted by Hackers

The following is an excerpt taken from the Wall Street Journal by Dave Weinstein on Feb 26, 2021.

“I first saw the inside of a water-treatment plant in 2015. I was conducting a site visit at a municipal facility in New Jersey, where I was the state’s director of cybersecurity. It wasn’t an inspection; the plant manager had asked me to visit.

Analog machinery had given way to digital systems, and critical water-treatment processes were now automated. The plant required little human intervention in day-to-day operations. Thanks to remote-access technologies, more maintenance and monitoring activities were being performed off-site by a third party.

All of this was great for efficiently, especially for the resource-limited operation, but what about the risk? Optimizing for cost and speed meant connecting more digital and networked technologies to the plant floor. Security was no longer simply a matter of gates, guards, and guns. It had become a matter of bits and bytes.

In early February, someone tried to poison the water supply in the Gulf Coast city of Oldsmar, Fla. According to the Pinellas County Sheriff, a hacker gained remote access to Oldsmar’s water-treatment-plant network and briefly increased the amount of sodium hydroxide in the water by 100 times – enough to cause death or serious injury to anyone who drank or touched it. Thankfully a technician noticed the anomaly and booted the hacker off the network before any damage was done.  

What happened in Oldsmar fell just short of the nightmare scenario. The average person is unaware how dependent the country’s critical infrastructure has become on digital technology. At power plants, waterworks and all manner of public utilities, special-purpose computers known as human-machine interfaces connect to ruggedized-process controllers that regulate actuators to spin turbines, rotate robotic arms, or, in this case, open valves to release sodium hydroxide.

Oldsmar wasn’t the first cyberattack against water infrastructure. In April 2020 Israel’s National Cyber Directorate urged all water-treatment companies to change their passwords on critical systems. In 2016, according to a report by Verizon’s security unit, hackers with ties to Syria gained access to a water utility in an unknown country and managed to ‘handicap water treatment and production capabilities.’

Redundant controls and a bit of good luck shouldn’t diminish the severity of this cyber threat to public health. The plant operator was tipped off by a mouse arrow moving across a screen and making changes to critical water-treatment processes. But what if the operator didn’t have the benefit of a visual aide to observe the hacker in real-time? What if the human-machine interface was manipulated by malware to report ‘all clear’ as the hackers increased concentration of sodium hydroxide to lethal levels? Would the breach have been detected before someone drank or bathed with the corrosive adulterated water?

The answer and the problem are inextricably linked. Detecting toxic water en route to consumers requires sensors in the distribution network. Those sensors must be connected so they can communicate and transmit data for either humans or machines to take preventative actions. Anything that is connected can be manipulated. Should we rip the sensors out lest they be hacked? Of course not. Instead, we must reduce vulnerability by extending security to all parts of the network, even those that seem beyond the reach of malicious actors.

‘I just don’t trust those computers,’ the New Jersey plant manager told me in 2015. We should all be untrusting when it comes to technology, but not at the expense of its embrace. The zero-trust mindset made all the difference for the city of Oldsmar.”

To read more, check out the original opinion article from the Wall Street Journal. To protect yourself and your family from chemical-laden water, contact the water purification experts at Reynolds today.

Reynolds Water Conditioning was established in 1931 and is Michigan’s oldest water conditioning treatment company. Still owned and operated by the Reynolds family, we take pride in providing the highest quality products at a cost-effective price. If your tap water lacks the quality you deserve, contact us today at www.reynoldswater.com or call 800-572-9575.

Written by the digital marketing staff at Creative Programs & Systems: www.cpsmi.com.

Toxic Hexavalent Chromium Released into Tap Water Through Pipes

The 2000 film “Erin Brockovich,” based on a true story, launched the carcinogen hexavalent chromium into the spotlight. Water supplies in California were tainted with the chemical, which caused a plethora of residents in Hinkley to succumb to cancer and all sorts of other deadly diseases.

A new study is bringing this chemical back to light by analyzing the process in which it infiltrates the drinking water supply, specifically when commonly used chlorine disinfectants corrode cast iron water distribution pipes.

Chromium occurs naturally and is often added to countless products. Its toxicity varies depending on its state. More than 200 million people in the United States drink tap water with chromium concentrations above .02 ppb, according to the Environmental Working Group. The state of California has set this part-per-billion level to ensure that fewer than one out of a million exposed people will get cancer in their lifetimes. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) does not regulate chromium levels in drinking water.

In the past, scientists hypothesized that chromium found in drinking water came from outside the distribution system, emerging from natural sources such as groundwater, surface water, or industrial pollution. However, environmental engineer Haizhou Liu and his team at the University of California, Riverside, noticed that reactions within water pipes might raise chromium levels at the tap.

Sections of cast iron pipes from two drinking water systems were obtained for the study. Cast iron is the most common type of pipe, and it contains significant amounts of added chromium, which acts as an anti-corrosive.

The scientists discovered that scales of flakes from within the pipes produced chromium. “The oxidation of chromium in the scales by chlorine disinfectant accounts for most of the formation of hexavalent chromium released into the solution,” Liu said.

“Now that we know that cast iron pipes are a potential source of hexavalent chromium, utilities need to think proactively to use less reactive disinfectants and limit the amount of chromium allowed in new drinking water pipes,” said Lynn Katz, an environmental engineer at the University of Texas.

To learn more about hexavalent chromium, visit Erin Brockovich’s website. To install a water filter in your home, contact the experts at Reynolds Water Conditioning today.

Reynolds Water Conditioning was established in 1931 and is Michigan’s oldest water conditioning treatment company. Still owned and operated by the Reynolds family, we take pride in providing the highest quality products at a cost-effective price. If your tap water lacks the quality you deserve, contact us today at www.reynoldswater.com or call 800-572-9575.

Written by the digital marketing staff at Creative Programs & Systems: www.cpsmi.com.

Hacker Tried to Poison Town’s Water Supply

In Oldsmar, Florida, a city of 15,000 people in the Tampa Bay area, a hacker remotely accessed the water treatment plant and adjusted the lye levels in the city’s drinking water, raising it to more than 100 times the normal level.

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said, “It’s a bad act. It’s a bad actor. It’s not just a little chlorine, or a little fluoride – you’re basically talking about lye.”

A remote access software program called TeamViewer was used to infiltrate the water treatment facility. The intruder entered the system twice: 8 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. It is unclear whether the hacker entered the system by the use of a password, though it is required to use the system remotely, according to the assistant city manager Felicia Donnelly.

The hacker’s efforts were immediately caught by the system’s operator, who reduced the levels within the system. No significant changes were noted in the city’s water supply; the public was never in danger. The intrusion lasted between three and five minutes, according to the sheriff. 

Senator Marco Rubio, R-FL, said the attempt to poison the water supply should be treated as a “matter of national security.”

The incident highlights how critical infrastructure systems are to hackers due to online and remote-use programs. Experts have warned that these programs can be exploited by hackers looking to harm or inflict bioterrorism. Nationwide, water plant operators (including those at dams, oil, and gas pipelines) have welcomed the digital technology transformation, allowing contractors and engineers to monitor temperature, pressure, and chemical levels from remote work stations.

During the 2020 coronavirus lockdown in Israel, officials reported hackers affiliated with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps made a failed attempt to hack the country’s water supply and adjust the chlorine levels. Such attacks date back to 2007, when the United States and Israel conducted a joint attack on Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility, disabling nearly 1,000 uranium centrifuges.

The former director of the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, Chris Krebs, said, “Unfortunately, that water treatment facility is the rule rather than the exception. When an organization is struggling to make payroll and keep systems on a generation of technology created in the last decade, even the basics in cybersecurity often are out of reach.”

Gualtieri said the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the United States Secret Service are involved in the investigation, but the county itself is using an in-house lab for the forensic analysis. Officials stressed it would have taken 24 to 36 hours for the water to be fully contaminated. When levels are out of limit or range, a number of alarms will sound, alerting staff.

Reynolds Water Conditioning was established in 1931 and is Michigan’s oldest water conditioning treatment company. Still owned and operated by the Reynolds family, we take pride in offering the highest quality products at a cost-effective price. If your tap water lacks the quality you deserve, contact us today at www.reynoldswater.com or call 800-572-9575.

Written by the digital marketing staff at Creative Programs & Systems: www.cpsmi.com.

Former Michigan Governor and Eight Others Face Charges in Flint Water Crisis

After a nearly two-year-long criminal investigation, Michigan prosecutors announced 41 counts (34 felonies and seven misdemeanors) against nine high-ranking government officials, including former governor Rick Snyder, his top advisors, trusted medical officials, and two emergency managers. Two of the officials were charged with nine counts of involuntary manslaughter.

According to prosecutors, Flint residents’ health and safety were left unprotected by officials. The residents were poisoned and sickened by Legionnaires’ disease. In April 2014, the city’s water supply was switched to the Flint River, which caused increased levels of lead in their drinking water. From June 2014 through October 2015, at least nine people died from Legionnaires’ disease, a form of pneumonia caused by waterborne bacteria.

Michigan’s solicitor general Fadwa Hammond said, “The Flint water crisis is not some relic of the past. At this very moment, the people of Flint continue to suffer from the categorical failure of public officials at all levels of government who trampled upon their trust and evaded accountability for far too long.”

Previously, fifteen state and local officials had been accused by state prosecutors of crimes; seven took plea deals, and eight more were awaiting trial. In 2019, prosecutors stunningly dropped all pending charges and began a new investigation.

Many of the same officials are indicted in this case, including Nick Lyon (former state health director) and Dr. Eden Wells (former state chief medical officer.) Both were charged with nine counts of involuntary manslaughter in the deaths of those residents who succumbed to Legionnaires’ disease.

E-mails from 2015 indicate state officials were, in fact, aware of an increase in Legionnaires’ disease cases, possibly tied to Flint’s troubled water supply. Ten months later, in early 2016, former governor Rick Snyder informed the public of the situation.

In late 2015, Flint city officials switched the water supply back to its previous source, Lake Huron. Despite the shift, countless Flint residents distrust the water supply even though city officials insist it is safe to drink.

For more information, read the full Detroit Free Press article. Also, check out one of our past blog posts where we discussed the State of Michigan paying Flint water crisis victims $600M.

Reynolds Water Conditioning was established in 1931 and is Michigan’s oldest water conditioning treatment company. Still owned and operated by the Reynolds family, we take pride in providing the highest quality products at a cost-effective price. If your tap water lacks the quality you deserve, contact us today at www.reynoldswater.com or call 800-572-9575.

Written by the digital marketing staff at Creative Programs & Systems: www.cpsmi.com.

New Water Flow Regulations Proposed in the U.S. for Showerheads, Dishwashers, & Washing Machines

Regulations on water usage have been implemented for decades due to droughts and energy efficiency (using fewer fossil fuels) in an effort to lower overall consumer costs. Higher usage drives prices up, which in turn causes non-renewable resources to diminish through time.

Since 1992, federal law has stipulated the amount of water pouring out of showerheads in one minute should be no more than 2.5 gallons. In 2013, newer shower fittings with multiple nozzles caused the Obama administration to define the restrictions and apply the 2.5-gallon rule to the entire fixture. Therefore, if a showerhead is comprised of four nozzles, no more than 2.5 gallons (total) should exit the nozzles within one minute.  

A new proposal enacted by the Trump administration would allow each nozzle to spray as much as 2.5 gallons, which could amount to five gallons of total water being spewed out per minute if two showerhead nozzles are installed. Multiply that by four or five, and showerheads could be pushing out 10 to 15 gallons per minute, costing consumers hundreds of dollars in usage bills.

The 28-year-old law was partially implemented due to the megadrought the western states have been experiencing for two decades. University of Michigan environmentalist Dean Jonathan Overpeck said, “[It is] the first observed multidecadal megadrought in recorded U.S. history.”

Additionally, the Trump administration has advanced easier dishwasher regulations that exempt fast-cleaning machines from decades-old rules. The Department of Energy created a separate product class for dishwashers with a short cycle, classifying them as the “normal” cycle, with no limit on energy or water use.

Over the past three decades, dishwasher water and energy use have declined by more than 50 percent due to federal standards and manufacturer innovations. The first energy-efficient standard for dishwashers was set in 1987 by Congress. It was updated three times since then, most recently in 2012 by the Department of Energy.

A third proposal by the U.S. Department of Energy would allow new clothes washers and dryers to waste unlimited amounts of water and energy. The current efficiency standards for washing machines were set in 2012 and save consumers roughly $365 over an appliance’s lifetime, with utility bills and purchase costs factored in.

The Department of Energy is prevented by federal law from weakening the efficiency standards. Still, the proposed new rule would dodge that regulation by creating a separate “product class” for machines using a short cycle, and renaming it their “normal” cycle, much like the proposal for dishwashers. No energy efficiency or water use standard would be implemented at first, as these developments take years. Many new washing machines come with a short cycle option.

The American Council for an Energy- Efficient Economy (ACEEE) reported that an analysis of performance, features, and price efficiency has improved since the standards were implemented. Simultaneously, product prices have decreased, meaning a better overall return on investment with these machines.

Clean water is vital for showering, laundry, and washing dishes. Ensure your water is chemical and rust-free with a consultation from the experts at Reynolds Water Conditioning.

Reynolds Water Conditioning was established in 1931 and is Michigan’s oldest water conditioning treatment company. Still owned and operated by the Reynolds family, we take pride in providing the highest quality products at a cost-effective price. If your tap water lacks the quality you deserve, contact us today at www.reynoldswater.com or call 800-572-9575.

Written by the digital marketing staff at Creative Programs & Systems: www.cpsmi.com.

City of Destin, FL Wins Water Tank of the Year

Across the United States and Canada, over 23,000 votes were cast and 300 water tanks nominated for Tank of the Year competition sponsored by Tnemec Company, Inc. A panel of water tank enthusiasts selected the tank design based on criteria such as artistic value, significance of the tank to the community, and challenges encountered during the project. Bossier City, Louisiana was the winner of the People’s Choice competition, as it won 6,281 votes from members of the public.

Scott Keilbey, Director of Sales – Water Tank Market at Tnemec explained, “The tank includes a one-of-a-kind seascape mural that now stands high above Destin in an ultra-realistic homage to all the wildlife that call the Gulf of Mexico home. From the beginning, Destin knew its tank would need to be unique, which is why they chose long-time water tank mural artist, Eric Henn, to complete the piece.”

The tank was painted with Tnemec’s UV-resistant, long-lasting fluoropolymer finish, Series 700 HydroFlon, which will ensure the design will last through the hot and humid Florida climate.

Among the top 12 finalists for 2020 include tanks in: Bossier City, Louisiana; Hot Springs, Arkansas; Muscatine, Iowa; Cumming, Iowa; White Bear Lake, Minnesota; Grafton, Ohio; Hutchinson, Kansas; Troy, Virginia; Jansen, Nebraska; Pain Court, Ontario; and Kansas City, Missouri.

Keilbey explained, “This is the 15th anniversary of the competition, which recognizes municipalities for their aesthetic, creative, and innovative uses of Tnemec’s high-performance coatings on water storage tank projects. This year’s finalists represent several different types of water tanks in various shapes and sizes, all of them impressive for one reason or another.”

Destin’s tank will be featured as the month of January in Tnemec’s 2021 water tank calendar and presented as winner of Tank of the Year. The following months of the calendar will include finalists and other nominees.

To read more about the water tank competition, refer to the full article by Water World. For all of your drinking water questions or needs, contact the professionals at Reynolds Water Conditioning today.

Reynolds Water Conditioning was established in 1931 and is Michigan’s oldest water conditioning treatment company. Still owned and operated by the Reynolds family, we take pride in providing the highest quality products at a cost-effective price. If your tap water lacks the quality you deserve, contact us today at www.reynoldswater.com or call 800-572-9575.

Written by the digital marketing staff at Creative Programs & Systems: www.cpsmi.com.

Government Grants Being Paid to MI Schools to Reduce Lead in Drinking Water

The Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act was signed into law in 2016. Funding under this act included reducing lead in school drinking water across the nation. The EPA recently announced the first-ever selections under the WIIN Act’s reduction in Lead Exposure via Drinking Water. These monies will support needy communities and schools in the removal of lead from drinking water.

Two cities in Michigan will receive funds: Benton Harbor ($5.6 million) and Grand Rapids ($5.1 million) to replace lead service lines. Other states include Indiana, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Maryland, Illinois, Virginia, and Massachusetts.

Various states have conducted a one-time transfer (from the Clean Water State Revolving Fund [CWSRF]) to other states (under the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund [DWSRF]) to cover costs related to remediating lead in the water supply. This is all accomplished under the Water Infrastructure Fund Transfer Act (WIFTA) and has totaled nearly $50 million to support efforts thus far.

The WIIN Act was founded in 2016 to identify, remediate, and maintain America’s drinking water infrastructure. Three drinking water acts are under the umbrella of the WIIN Act; these promote public health and protect the environment. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has made more than $69 million available to support the Lead Testing in School and Child Care Program Drinking Water grant programs. Moreover, an additional $42.8 million has been allocated to assist public water systems in underserved, small, and disadvantaged communities unable to meet the Safe Drinking Water Act requirements.

To read more about the grant, visit the Environmental Protection Agency’s website. For the freshest, purest tasting water free from chemicals and other contaminants, contact the experts at Reynolds Water Conditioning today.

Reynolds Water Conditioning was established in 1931 and is Michigan’s oldest water conditioning treatment company. Still owned and operated by the Reynolds family, we take pride in providing the highest quality products at a cost-effective price. If your tap water lacks the quality you deserve, contact us today at www.reynoldswater.com or call 800-572-9575.

Written by the digital marketing staff at Creative Programs & Systems: www.cpsmi.com.

Ann Arbor’s Gelman Dioxane Plume to be Remediated in Landmark Agreement

Local officials in Ann Arbor announced a proposed settlement after years of fighting in court for better cleanup of the Gelman Dioxane Plume. A more aggressive plan includes thorough monitoring of the plume’s expansion through the city’s groundwater and treating pollution at the source. Gelman Sciences is to blame for the polluted water.

Washtenaw County Board Chairman Jason Morgan said, “This is a monumental moment in our 40-plus-year effort to clean up the Gelman dioxane plume. We finally have a new proposed consent judgment and have made the documents public. This is a big deal.”

Polluter Gelman Sciences would be required to install new groundwater extraction wells to remove dioxane pollution from the environment, as well as more monitoring wells to further investigate the migration of the toxic chemical, with new trigger levels for taking action. They would also be required to install two new remediation techniques to increase removal of dioxane in the ground at the source off of Wagner Road in Ann Arbor.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classifies dioxane as a carcinogen by all routes of exposure. It can cause kidney, liver, and respiratory system damage. Just a few Parts Per Billion (ppb) in drinking water with long-term exposure poses a one-in-100,000 cancer risk, according to the EPA.

The proposed settlement formalizes the state’s newer standard of 7.2 ppb down from 85 ppb level of dioxane in drinking water.

The dioxane plume was first discovered in the 1980s, originating from Gelman’s filter manufacturing complex, and it has plagued the groundwater ever since. Gelman Sciences has done little to remedy the situation beyond pump-and-treat remediation. The plume has spread for miles, including east into Ann Arbor city limits, causing fears it could poison the city’s primary drinking water supply, Barton Pond, in addition to many wells.

For further reading, the Gelman Proposed Settlement Documents are on the city of Ann Arbor’s website. To protect yourself and your family from dangerous chemicals found in drinking water, contact the experts at Reynolds Water Conditioning today.

Reynolds Water Conditioning was established in 1931 and is Michigan’s oldest water conditioning treatment company. Still owned and operated by the Reynolds family, we take pride in providing the highest quality products at a cost-effective price. If your tap water lacks the quality you deserve, contact us today at www.reynoldswater.com or call 800-572-9575.

Written by the digital marketing staff at Creative Programs & Systems: www.cpsmi.com.

EPA Announces Regulation for PFAS

Last month, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that they would begin to regulate a category of chemicals known as PFAS. PFAS’s are linked to cancer and other health issues that can be found in the environment and the human body.  

Environmentalists have voiced their concerns that Trump’s EPA administration have procrastinated with environmental regulations rather than steadfast on issues. Currently, the EPA recommends water should contain 70 parts per trillion (ppt) of PFAS or less; however, this amount is not mandatory. Many health officials argue this number is still too high. 

The next step will be a lengthy process entailing two long years with agency debates to determine a consensus on new contamination level standards. Once a consensus has been reached, the agency will have another 18 months to finalize the drinking water requirements. The EPA will create two drinking water standards during this process. The first standard will be heavily based on health considerations, and the second will focus on financial investment obligations. For more information about this EPA update, read this article.



New Study Shows Danger of Chlorine in Drinking Water

During a new study, researchers at John Hopkins University have found unintended and toxic byproducts during the cleaning process of water with the use of chlorine. The chemical, chlorine, has been used for over one hundred years to disinfect water supplies, and no doubt it has had positive benefits that have saved millions of lives from diseases like typhoid and cholera. According to this study, when chlorine is mixed with phenols, which is a naturally occurring compound in the environment, a large amount of byproduct is made. Further research is needed to find these actual byproducts inside our drinking water and determine if a new method should be sought to disinfect our water. To read more about this study, click here