Case Study: Philadelphia Water Department Contaminant Warning System

One of five pilot cities to implement a contaminant warning system (CWS), Philadelphia shares lessons learned and highlights functional benefits

Yakir-Hasit CH2M HILL

Yakir Hasit | CH2M HILL

Despite the United States’ historically safe supply of drinking water, the threat of water contamination remains a concern, and after September 11, 2001, identifying ways to secure the nation’s drinking water distribution systems became a larger priority because whether intentional or accidental, contaminated drinking water

Jay Kirk | CH2M HILL

Jay Kirk | CH2M HILL

can have devastating consequences on public health, critical infrastructure, the economy, and the environment. The reality is, with multiple points of access and no easy way to detect contaminants in a timely manner, distribution systems are vulnerable to potential security threats. To address

Gary Burlingame Philadelphia Water Department

Gary Burlingame | Philadelphia Water Department

this concern, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) funded a monitoring and surveillance pilot program in five U.S. cities, as part of a larger Water Security Initiative.

Among the cities selected to participate was Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The $9.5 million grant funded the Philadelphia Water Department (PWD), one of the oldest and largest publically owned water, wastewater, and stormwater utilities in the nation, to pilot a comprehensive Contamination Warning System (CWS). PWD contributed $2.4 million of its own funds resulting in a project budget of $11.9 million. This initiative provided the means to integrate the latest technologies into existing systems to make it easier to accurately detect contaminants or threats with enough time to react and resolve the issue before potentially contaminated water can be distributed to consumers.

PWD produces 250 MGD of finished water and serves approximately 1.6 million customers throughout its 3,164-mile long distribution system. PWD has been recognized for its water quality protection programs, as well as its commitment to providing safe drinking water to Philadelphia area residents. The CWS is an extension of PWD’s previous work to improve the quality of its water and existing online water quality monitoring network.