The U.S. Coast Guard has abandoned its plan to conduct “live fire” weapons training on the Great Lakes. Steve Carmody has more:
The U.S. Coast Guard has abandoned its plan to conduct “live fire” weapons training on the Great Lakes. Steve Carmody has more:
The Coast Guard had wanted to establish 34 “live fire” zones across the Great Lakes. The proposal ran into opposition partly involving concerns over the potential environmental impact.
Michigan Congressman Bart Stupak says thousands of rounds of spent ammunition would have been dumped onto the bottom of the Great Lakes.
“We’re not going to let the Coast Guard dump 7,000 pounds of lead in the Great Lakes. No other industry could do it, so they certainly were not going to be allowed to do it. And, they still really haven’t answered the real basic question, ‘why is it necessary to do it now?'”
In a written statement, the Coast Guard said it would reconsider its “live fire” proposal, including the location of water training areas and the use of “environmentally friendly alternatives to the lead ammunition” currently used.
Congressman Stupak says it will probably be several years before the Coast Guard tries to put forward a new “live fire” proposal.
Mock evidence of radiological material to make a dirty bomb gives trainees an idea of the kind of materials they might find in a terrorist operation. (Photo by Lester Graham)
A lab mocked up to resemble a terrorist operation making sarin nerve agent. (Photo by Lester Graham)
Environmental Protection Agency response vehicles include equipment to detect all sorts of material that might be released by terrorists. (Photo by Lester Graham)
Since 9/11, emergency responders have been practicing for new kinds of emergencies. In addition to fires and hazardous materials spills, emergency personnel have been training to deal with terrorist attacks. Recently, the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham was allowed behind the scenes in a terrorism attack training exercise:
Since 9/11, emergency responders have been practicing for new kinds of emergencies. In
addition to fires and hazardous materials spills, emergency personnel have been training
to deal with terrorist attacks. Recently, the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester
Graham was allowed behind the scenes in a terrorism attack training exercise:
These two men are the victims of some kind of biological toxin. They were investigating
an abandoned rental truck and now they’re writhing on the ground after a package
spewed some kind of liquid.
(chatter between mock victims) “You alright, man?” “What was that?” “I don’t know
what that was. It hurts.”
These guys are acting. They’re part of a huge training exercise put on by the
Environmental Protection Agency. Dozens of firefighters, emergency medical personnel,
EPA investigators, the FBI and people in t-shirts identifying themselves with acronyms
for agencies most of us have never heard of. They’re all working through a couple of
scenarios. So far today, they’ve discovered radioactive material to make dirty bombs and
some kind of lab set up to make a chemical like sarin nerve gas… and then there’s the
rental truck which is loaded with nasty chemicals.
Mark Durno is the U.S. EPA’s On-Scene Coordinator…
“We have some very distinct objectives with this exercise. One is to practice responding
to unusual situations that might involve weapons of mass destruction. In this particular
exercise, we’re practicing chemical agent and radiological agent response.”
There are lots of new things to learn. Coordination between agencies… and new
techniques. In this exercise, Detroit city departments are learning to work with federal
agencies. Melvin Green is with the Fire Department’s Emergency Medical Services. He
says this exercise is good. He’d rather see his medical technicians make mistakes here
than during a real emergency… where his worst fears might be realized.
“I would have to say that, you know, them become casualties, that’s probably my biggest
fear. This is why we want to educate them on—and this is why the exercise is so
important. We want to educate them on the possibilities. Keeping our people safe
That’s because if the emergency medical personnel are hurt… fewer people will be
The idea of a terrorist attack with radiological or biological agents is the kind of
nightmarish scenario that no one really wants to think about… but it’s something
emergency responders HAVE to think about.
During this day-long exercise… these trainees are upbeat, they’re confident in their
response. They feel they’ve come a long way in the nearly three years since 9/11.
But other emergency service experts are not quite as upbeat. Just 40 miles from this
training exercise… at the University of Michigan Hospital’s Department of Emergency
Medicine, Administrator Peter Forster says there are weaknesses in preparedness for
“We’ve made a lot of progress from where we were, but we’ve got a long ways to go.”
Forster says when victims start showing up at the hospital emergency rooms…. there will
“Most emergency preparedness activities have been geared toward local events with
relatively small numbers of victims. When we start talking about hundreds of people or
thousands of people injured or hurt, or exposed to some toxic or contagious substance,
then I think the health system would have a significantly difficult time expanding to meet
that requirement, regardless of how much, uh, how well we’re trained or how prepared
we are. We don’t really have the capacity on the health care side to manage a significant
influx of patients.”
Forster says plans to set up emergency medical facilities in auditoriums, school gyms,
and maybe even hotel rooms need to be completed… arrangements made… and supplies
(sound up of training exercise, generators, etc.)
Meanwhile, back in Detroit… investigators are putting on bulky chemical protection
suits—the ones that look like big space suits…blue, yellow, olive, with teal-colored
gloves and orange boots… you’d think of circus colors if the subject matter weren’t so
serious. After examining the mock lab, spending about an hour in the sweltering suits,
they come out for decontamination before their air tanks run out. The local agencies help
with decontamination… spraying and scrubbing the suits down.
(sound: beeping, scrubbing)
The training site has all the sights and sounds of a real emergency. Lots of emergency
vehicles… the noise of generators and the smell of diesel. But it’s fairly relaxed. There’s
none of the tension, none of the urgency of a real emergency.
The U.S. EPA’s On-Scene Coordinator, Mark Durno, says there are some things you
can’t bring to a drill…
“You can never simulate the adrenaline and the potential panic that’s associated with a
real event, especially when you hear the words ‘chemical’ and ‘radiological’ agent.
However, we can practice those little tools that we’re going to need to be absolutely
proficient at to ensure that when the panic hits, we’re ready to roll without any
The days’ training has turned up a few glitches. Communication between agencies is
still a problem. Emergency radio frequencies need to be sorted out and coordinated. And
there are still some major gaps in preparedness that are not part of this training… such as
the emergency room capacity problem. But one of the bigger issues is money. Federal
money has been promised to local governments… but it’s been very slow in coming.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Lester Graham.
Federal officials began taking information off government websites after the September 11th attacks. They feared terrorists would use the information to plan future attacks. Now, a new study says much of that information wouldn’t be useful to terrorists. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Mark Brush explains:
Federal officials began taking information off government websites after the
September 11th attacks. They feared terrorists would use the information to
plan future attacks. Now a new study says much of that information wouldn’t
be useful to terrorists. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Mark Brush has
Researchers at the Rand Corporation spent a year analyzing 629 federal
websites. They looked at sites that had information about things such as
bridges, power plants, transit systems, and chemical factories. They found
that less than one percent of the websites they analyzed had information that
would be useful for a terrorist to mount an attack.
Beth Lachman co-authored the study. She says agencies need to develop
better methods before pulling information off of their websites:
“Stuff that we think may be very sensitive may not be quite as sensitive as
you thought. Just because you have to really analyze, ‘Well how useful is
this? How unique is it? Is it out there in a lot of different sources? What
are the cost and benefits associated with putting it out there and
potentially restricting it from being out there.'”
Lachman and the other researchers say if the information isn’t useful to a
terrorist, it should be made available to the public. They say people have
the right to know about information such as what chemicals are stored
in their neighborhoods.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Mark Brush.
Final regulations requiring all ports to be secure against terrorist attacks will be released next month by the federal government. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Mike Simonson reports that port officials are hoping the new rules come with some new money:
Final regulations requiring all ports to be secure against terrorist attacks
will be released next month by the federal government. The Great Lakes Radio
Consortium’s Mike Simonson reports that port officials are hoping the new
rules come with some new money:
With 50 nations using the St. Lawrence Seaway,
hundreds of ships, dropping off and picking up
goods, Great Lakes ports have a lot
to make secure.
The Marine Transportation
Security Act makes sure all ports big and small assess risks and come up
with a plan to make things safe from terrorism.
Duluth-Superior Port Security Official Captain Ray Skelton has been working
with Washington on these new regulations. He doesn’t expect any surprises.
“The final regs, if they came out that we have to have armed guards
at piles of limestone, I’d go back to Washington and start a fight. But if
everything stays reasonable, we’ll just go ahead and comply.”
Tighter security may mean some guards, surveillance cameras, fences and alarms.
Skelton says these things are costing ports money without much financial
help from those making up the new rules. Skelton won’t say how much
Duluth-Superior has spent, but he says so far they’ve had to foot the bill.
Ports will have one year to comply with the Marine Transportation Security
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Mike Simonson.
It’s been almost a year since terrorists attacked the United States. But the repercussions of that morning continue to ripple across the country. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Ann Murray looks at how security concerns are impacting the country’s 50,000 small drinking water systems. These utilities now find themselves scrambling for money, security training and equipment to keep their facilities and water supplies safe:
It’s been almost a year since terrorists attacked the United States. But the repercussions of that morning continue to ripple across the country. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Ann Murray looks at how security concerns are impacting the country’s 50,000 small drinking water systems. These utilities now find themselves scrambling
for money, security training and equipment to keep their facilities and
water supplies safe:
The federal government started thinking seriously about domestic
security well before last September. Four years ago, the Clinton
administration examined the country’s infrastructure. And the results were
sobering. Water and wastewater systems were found to be vulnerable to
physical damage, computer hacking, chemical spills and radiological
Recent CIA reports place large metropolitan water systems on alert as
potential targets for terrorist attacks. But some small system operators
think their plants are vulnerable, too.
(sound of water plant)
“I feel that they could make an example out of a small system that says,
‘Look here, we could do that to a small one. We could do it to a larger
Barry Clemmer has run public water systems in western Pennsylvania for the
past 25 years. Before September 11th, he says his main concern was
vandalism – still the most likely scenario for a security breach. He walks
the fenced perimeter of his facility and points out new security devices.
“We have a camera on the side of one of our buildings that focuses
on the entrance gate. We monitor 24 hours a day. It’s hard to keep someone
out but it’s a deterrent and might slow them down from getting in.”
(sound of key in lock)
Although the front of the plant is now more secure, Clemmer continues
to worry about the intake system. That’s where raw river water is piped
into the treatment plant.
Clemmer: “Excuse me, I’ll open the gate.”
The river flows about 30 feet below the gated back of the facility. Clemmer walks down a wooden stairway to the unguarded riverbank. He shakes his head and says that terrorists could attack his plant from here.
“They could come up the river on a boat and hop out and go right
there and drop something in. It’d only take five minutes and our water
could be contaminated.”
Plans are in the works to secure the area where raw water is
taken into the plant. But Clemmer says that he still needs a security camera to
keep a close eye on the river. That will require additional grant dollars
because there isn’t money in the budget for security equipment and the
local community says it can’t afford the extra expense.
John Mori is director of the National Environmental Services Center, a federally funded technical assistance group. He says budget constraints are nothing new to small communities. It’s just that financial limitations have taken on an added dimension in this past year.
“Small systems historically have never gotten a share… an appropriate
share of federal dollars under the various loan programs. The point is there
are hundreds of thousands of Americans in small communities, medium size
communities and they need equal assurance that their water is safe and protected.”
Unlike metropolitan areas, Mori says smaller communities just don’t
have a big pool of qualified water personnel. So already overburdened
operators must now take on the responsibility of keeping their facilities
safe from terrorism.
“These are hardworking men and women who may have two or three or four
jobs in a community trying to do everything at once and make sure their
customers get good, safe water. So I think they’re determined about this. I
just think they need some help.”
Since September 11th, most help – in the form of new federal dollars
and security training – has gone to large water utilities. Metropolitan
water plants serve about 80 percent of the U.S. population. But Andy
Bielanski, with EPA’s newly formed Water Protection Task Force, says that the
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is moving slowly but deliberately to also
help small water systems.
“What we’re doing is taking input and feedback from states, other
technical assistance organizations and agencies, on how best to approach
this problem. And we’ve been taking this all into consideration in trying
to provide security assistance to small systems.”
EPA and other agencies now face the daunting task of reaching more than
50,000 small water utilities. These utilities vary in size, customer base
and technical sophistication.
This past May, Congress mandated water utilities with more than 3,300
customers to conduct vulnerability assessments. Operators must then create
emergency response plans to address not only terrorism but vandalism or
natural disasters. Before September 11th, many small systems didn’t have
workable emergency plans in place.
(sound of conference)
At a pilot seminar for small system security, Tom Sherman with Michigan’s
Rural Community Assistance Program says Michigan’s systems are just like
many other small water utilities: they’re beginning from scratch.
“It’s kind of like ground zero. We’re just starting out. It’s something we knew we
had to address and you just need the input to know you’re going in the right direction.”
To make sure that small water operations are heading in the right direction, the federal government is trying to improve its outreach to small and medium size communities. Some funds have already been distributed to help these communities evaluate the safety of their water systems and upgrade their security. More than $70 million additional dollars await the approval of Congress and the President.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Ann Murray.
Terrorism prevention experts say the attacks in New York and Washington, D.C., are reminders of how vulnerable the U.S. is. However, they say utilities and cities can take simple steps to safeguard natural resources such as forests and water resources against terrorist attacks. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:
Terrorism prevention experts say the attacks in New York City and Washington D.C. are reminders of how vulnerable the U.S. is. However, they say utilities and cities can take simple steps to safeguard natural resources such as forests and water sources against terrorist attacks. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports.
The terrorist attacks prompted alarm across the nation, and even people in areas that will likely never be the targets of terrorism are wondering aloud about their vulnerability.
Peter Beerings is the terrorism prevention coordinator for the city of Indianapolis, and speaks on the subject across the nation. Beering says because the U.S. has such great wealth well beyond its cities, it is vulnerable.
“We have vast expanses of natural resources, forests, parks, things that we consider to be natural treasures are just as easily national targets. But, it is important, I think, to remember that while we are vulnerable by virtue of our size, that this is not particularly something of interest other than to, perhaps, a single issue aggressor.”
By single issue aggressor, Beering means these areas aren’t likely to be the targets for international terrorists, but are occasionally targeted by fanatics for single causes. For example, forest fires have been ignited to protest development near wilderness areas, and an extortionist threatened to poison the water in Phoenix.
A small town about 50 miles southwest of Indianapolis also has been a target of a terrorist group. Dave Rollo sits on the Bloomington, Indiana Environmental Commission. Last year, environmental terrorists repeatedly hit Bloomington, destroying highway construction equipment, burning a house under construction in a sensitive watershed, and spiking trees in a nearby state forest to prevent logging.
“It really brought terrorism home to a small town such as
Bloomington when this sort of activity usually takes place elsewhere. So, I think that public officials, especially, had to rethink many things about how we– how Bloomington has to safeguard the community from these acts.”
Rollo says one thing is certain. Bloomington lost its complacency about the possibility of terrorism. After a period of fear and confusion, the city is now struggling with the proper security measures.
“How does one go about safeguarding a forest from deliberate arson, or how does one go about safeguarding a water supply the size of Lake Monroe which is the largest lake in Indiana. It’s an enormous challenge.”
And it’s a challenge that governments have been unwilling to talk about publicly, at least until now.
Jim Snyder is a researcher at the University of Michigan. At the direction of the President’s commission on critical infrastructure protection, he co-authorized a report on protecting water systems, possibly the most vulnerable target. But instead of getting information to the water purification plants across the nation, the government buried it, fearing that it might cause panic or give radical ideas.
“Some ten years ago we wrote a manual on how to secure water supplies for the EPA, but because they’re always worried about getting that notion into the public eye –which of course now any of these things are in the public eye– but they basically decided not to distribute that manual.”
Snyder says the manual outlined simple things, such as an emergency response plan, locking gates in sensitive areas and securing wells, and having guards on duty at water plants, things that would dissuade vandals or disgruntled employees. However, Snyder says, there’s little to prevent a determined terrorist with the right knowledge from poisoning a water system, undetected with contaminants small enough to fit in a backpack.
“It is certainly possible to put something in the water (which would go) which would be odorless, colorless, tasteless, uh, and not detected. And, your best indication that you have a problem are sick people or dead people.”
The terrorism prevention experts say no one can predict or prevent all acts of terrorism. But cities and utilities can make it more difficult, and that might be enough to dissuade some of these single-issue aggressors. Peter Beering in Indianapolis says natural resources have one more thing going for them.
“The good news is that these are comparatively uninteresting targets to an aggressor. And, as we learned, unfortunately, in New York and in Washington, that certainly there are much higher profile targets that are of much greater interest to people who are upset with the United States.”
Beering adds that should not be an excuse to ignore the risks to natural resources. He recommends every municipality assess its risks and take proper measures to secure its vulnerable areas.
Terrorism prevention experts who’ve been calling for better security at vulnerable targets now have the public’s attention. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:
Terrorism prevention experts who’ve been calling for better security at vulnerable targets now have the public’s attention. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports.
The experts say although a determined attack by a terrorist probably cannot be stopped. Security measures can be taken that would cause them to look for an easier target. Jim Snyder at the University of Michigan has co-authorized reports on water protection for the defense department. He says natural resources such as community water supplies and forests can and should be better protected.
“There’s lots of security measures that can be taken that are, compared to the value of the asset, is relatively minor expense. So, I suspect, because of this latest incident in New York and Washington, that there probably will be a renewed attention to all kinds of infrastructure.”
Snyder and other terrorism protection experts urge local governments to assess their risks and secure vulnerable areas. For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Lester Graham.
The terrible events in New York City and Washington have left a legacy of personal tragedies. For Great Lakes Radio Consortium commentator Suzanne Elston, the story of September 11th began as a journey of peace:
The terrible events in New York City and Washington D.C. have left a legacy of personal tragedies. For Great Lakes Radio Consortium commentator, Suzanne Elston, the story of September 11th, began as a journey of peace.
I’ve never been to New York City. So when we got an invitation to visit the Big Apple and participate in a children’s peace festival, we jumped at the chance. My husband Brian and two of our kids, Peter and Sarah, were going to be part of a church service marking the opening of the 56th session of the United Nations General Assembly.
Sarah was going to carry the Canadian flag and Peter was going to give a reading. The kids were wired and so were we.
Our plan was to leave Toronto Tuesday morning by train. The daylong trip would take us to New York City. We’d have all day Wednesday to do touristy things before the service on Thursday. We’d even managed to get tickets to a Broadway play. It all sounded so exciting that I couldn’t believe that it was actually going to happen.
We’d been on the train for about an hour when we first heard the news. Our traveling companions were 18 members of the Toronto Children’s Peace Theatre, also en route to the peace festival. The director of the company received a cell phone call that gave us sketchy details of the initial attack on the World Trade Center.
At first I refused to believe it. Here we were heading for an international children’s peace festival.
It felt like we were on the voyage of the damned. We continued on our journey, barreling down the tracks to a destination that we knew we would never reach. We heard rumors – the border was closed, there was shooting in the streets. People with cell phones were frantically trying to get a hold of somebody they knew who could give us an update.
The children from the theatre group were particularly upset. For most of them it was their first time away from home, and they were scared. As we discussed the latest details that we’d heard, one of the kids started to throw-up.
We moved to another car and tried to explain to a group of university students from England that they wouldn’t be flying home the next day from New York. As the news continued to filter in, we soon realized that they wouldn’t be flying home from anywhere. An elderly couple at the back of the car sat in stony silence. Their daughter worked at the World Trade Center and they were frozen in fear.
The conductor was stuck like a moose in headlights. Most of the passengers still didn’t know what was going on. My husband finally took him aside and explained that he had to make an announcement. People needed to make arrangements, to talk to their families. But he was just a kid and as scared as the rest of us. He wanted to wait until he had something official from Amtrak’s head office.
Finally, at 11:00 a.m., he made a formal announcement. The border was closed and we all would be disembarking at Niagara Falls. It was Tuesday evening by the time we got home and saw the horrific images of what had happened.
It wasn’t until then, when we were safe and home and together that we had a shocking revelation. The first stop on our sightseeing trip was going to be the World Trade Center. For the sake of a mere 24 hours we could have been buried at the bottom of that rubble like so many others.
Our great journey of peace ended with many prayers. We prayed for the victims and their families, we prayed for peace. Finally, we gave a prayer of thanks that we’d all made it home safely. After witnessing Tuesday’s horror – that was a gift beyond measure.