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San Diego Approves $14 Million Security Contract To Protect Vulnerable Water Systems

The Point Loma Wastewater Treatment Plant sits just above the ocean, Nov. 5, 2014.
Nicholas McVicker
The Point Loma Wastewater Treatment Plant sits just above the ocean, Nov. 5, 2014.

San Diego Approves $14 Million Security Contract To Protect Vulnerable Water Systems
The contract, called for under federal Department of Homeland Security guidelines for water and wastewater infrastructure, is for one year at nearly $2.5 million, with four one-year options to renew.

The San Diego City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved a new security contract to protect the city’s critical water infrastructure.

The five-year, $13.7 million contract will cover high-level protection at the city’s water and wastewater plants, critical pipelines and dams, including Miramar, Alvarado, and Otay Water Treatment Plants; Point Loma, North City, and South Bay Wastewater Treatment Plants; Metro Biosolids Center, Chollas Yard, the Metropolitan Operations Complex; and all dams operated by the Public Utilities Department.

The contract follows guidelines under the federal Department of Homeland Security. According to the federal agency, water and wastewater systems are vulnerable to a variety of attacks, including contamination with deadly agents, physical attacks such as the release of toxic gaseous chemicals and cyber attacks.

Eric Frost, director of San Diego State University’s Homeland Security Graduate Program, said San Diego’s dwindling water supplies have become more vulnerable to terrorism.

"If something is more precious, in terms of the value to people here, it becomes a bigger target," Frost said.

"If the infrastructure that brings water to us from Metropolitan Water District, from the Colorado River -- if that’s broken, San Diego’s in a difficult situation," he added.

The previous contract expired two years ago, and a temporary vendor has been providing security until the new deal takes effect, according to city documents.

Dan Stone, program manager for safety, security, and training with the city's public utilities department, said the new contract with Securitas Security Services USA Inc. is nothing more than a continuation of security services for essential infrastructure.

He said the security contractors are highly skilled in protecting water systems.

"We have an expectation of our guards to be able to maintain a higher levels of training and response surrounded facilities," said Stone. "Ours are very, very well trained in the methodologies of some of our surveillance systems, a lot of the electronic measures, they handle chemicals, they handle processes within our industry..."

The contract is for one year at nearly $2.5 million, with four one-year options to renew.

Corrected: June 30, 2022 at 5:53 PM PDT
City News Service contributed to the information in this report.
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