Wednesday, August 17, 2016
Bethlehem Officials Take Reservoir Break-In Seriously
Steve Antalics, an analytical chemist at Lehigh University, is also a regular at Bethlehem meetings. From a recent meeting of the Bethlehem Authority, he learned that on August 10, Bethlehem police reported that there had been a break-in at the reservoirs near the Bethlehem Star on South Mountain, which consist of two million gallon tanks. Water and Sewer Director Ed Boscola told the Authority he was unable to state when the trespass had actually occurred.
Antalics reported this information to City Council at their August 16 meeting. He questioned how this break-in could have occurred without being detected. He noted that since the motive is unknown, City officials have to consider all possibilities, from simple vandalism to a possible terrorism. Though the scientist agreed that the probability of terror might be low, he added that "the possibility is 100%."
Looking at what he called a "worst case scenario," Antalics speculated that Bethlehem's name might by itself make it a target. Though Bethlehem has a lab that tests water quality, Antalics stated that agents can be introduced into a water supply at low concentrations "that can do a lot of damage."
"They should have been detected before they got 100' from the building," declared Antalics, who said the sole security measure is a chain across the road.
Another Bethlehem regular, statistical economist Bill Scheirer agreed that Bethlehem is a "vulnerable, soft target" with "symbolic value."
Do Bethlehem officials share these concerns?
In a word, yes.
Boscola said he agrees with the concerns raised by Antalics and Scheirer, though all water facilities have some degree of security. He admitted no cameras are in place at the South Mountain facility because access is difficult. In addition to notifying both Bethlehem and Lower Saucon police, Boscola said the City will be "beefing up" security measures. "It may involve cameras. It may involve beefed up access controls." Though Boscola claimed that it is difficult to break into these tanks, he said there are some "weak spots" that require attention. He indicated a risk assessment analysis was done following 9/11. Though he said that poisoning a water supply is low risk, "any water system has its weak spots. ... We take security breaches seriously."
Police Chief Mark DiLuzio added that there is a "multi-agency" investigation under way.