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SUSPICIOUS ACTIVITY AT PA WATER FACILITY–as reported Friday afternoon, October 25, 2013

  • Sun, 10/27/2013 - 7:00pm
  • networx

(U//FOUO) Earlier this week, three males of Middle Eastern decent arrived at a Pennsylvania gated community and tried to gain access by stating they needed to perform maintenance on the cellular phone equipment on the water tower. Community security turned them away when they could not produce any identification to prove that they worked for a telephone service provider. Later that same evening, the same individuals were spotted by security at a back gate of the community trying to obtain access again. This incident is currently under investigation by law enforcement.

The above incident does not appear related to the following:

THREAT Against Altoona Water Authority (AWA) This situation began on Friday and was resolved by late Sunday, but PADEP will continue to monitor the situation.

On Friday, October 25th, an Altoona newspaper reported to the Altoona City Authority that the newspaper had received an e-mail threat that the Hollidaysburg reservoir had “been contaminated.” There were specifics in this email leading some to suspect that the person(s) knew something about water treatment or operations of the facility. Upon notification, the AWA shut down the filtration plant which draws from that reservoir. Altoona has several filtration plants and can provide service to all of their customers from those other plants. AWA notified the PADEP, PEMA and the PA State Police and response efforts for water sampling, investigating the condition of the reservoir and public notification planning began.

Although the plant was off line, there was still concern for any finished treated water contained in the clearwell. Water quality field sampling was performed at the reservoir, in the plant and finished treated water from a distribution system location, with further analysis performed at the PADEP laboratory.

A Do Not Consume notice was issued around 6 PM on Friday, to make the customers aware of the threat and that the filter plant is no longer in service. Notification occurred via the media, website and AWA’s reverse 911-like telephone system. While AWA serves 62,000 persons, those served from this specific reservoir is a small percentage and can be targeted by the telephone system. Notification was also shared with the PA Department of Agriculture for their restaurant inspectors. This advisory was lifted at 7 PM Sunday evening, based on low threat credibility and purging of the water system of suspect water, thereby removing ongoing risk to public health.

There was a bomb threat at the County Court House last week, which some believe is related to this threat against the water authority.