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Water: Water Contaminant Information Tool

Ways to Use WCIT - Application of WCIT Data

In order to address public health concerns arising from intentional or accidental contamination of drinking water or wastewater, EPA has developed WCIT – a database that contains information on contaminants of concern. Drinking water supplies and systems have unique attributes that make them more susceptible to the introduction of certain types of contaminants. The chemicals, pathogens, and radionuclides selected for WCIT are those that have the potential to contaminate drinking water.

The following applications of WCIT are targeted toward utilities, laboratories, and State and Federal agencies:

Understanding the Contamination Threat and Assessing Consequences
WCIT provides information to aid individuals managing contamination threats and incidents, including information useful in distinguishing between credible and non-credible threats. WCIT can be useful for water utilities, EPA On-Scene Coordinators, laboratories, State Primacy Agencies, and others in order to perform detailed assessments in preparation of a water contamination threat and to manage the consequences of an attack.

Assessments on the contaminants available in the WCIT database may also be applicable to contaminants not in the database but that have similar characteristics. Information about a contaminant begins with a review of the attributes such as availability (how easy is it to obtain the contaminant by purchasing, harvesting or synthesizing), toxicity or infectivity (at what level does the contaminant pose a public health threat if introduced into a water system), and stability (how long will the agent remain toxic or infective in water). Risk calculations are also provided to aid the user in determining the volume of water that could be contaminated with a given quantity of a substance or how much of a particular substance would be needed to contaminate a known volume of water at a specified public health standard.

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Emergency Response
WCIT provides relevant, contaminant-specific information that is not readily available in other databases. In preparation for an emergency response, information found in WCIT is specifically related to water contamination and includes general summaries about each contaminant, early warning indicators, and compilations of pathogen data.

Using the information in WCIT, organizations can focus their efforts on those activities and resources most appropriate to respond to incidents involving specific contaminants. In particular, WCIT will aid users in determining their emergency response preparation needs for equipment, field tests, and training. These preparations will assist the users in developing a general understanding of how to respond to contamination threats and also to assist with response to a broad range of contaminants.

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Water Analysis
Water utilities and water quality labs can evaluate their analytical capabilities for the contaminants available in WCIT. The list of analytical methods provided in WCIT for each contaminant can be used to identify whether a laboratory has or could have the ability to analyze a contaminant in house or whether it is necessary to get assistance from another laboratory. The information on analytical methods and field tests can also be used to develop routine monitoring programs. WCIT provides early warning indicator data for specific water quality parameters on each contaminant. Field tests such as toxicity assays are included to aid utilities in monitoring for contamination threats.

System and Consequence Management
Water system recovery can require specific approaches, depending on the contaminant. WCIT contains decontamination data to assist utilities in planning and implementing decontamination procedures. Fate and transport and drinking water treatment data provide information on treatment options, behavior of contaminants in chlorinated water, and natural degradation in water. As part of the contaminant summary, WCIT provides information that can be used by water utilities with site and incident-specific information to assess whether or not to issue drinking water advisories. These advisories may include “do not drink” and “stop use” orders and limitations on the use of water for firefighting and irrigation.

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Risk Communication
Water utilities and other users can prepare in advance risk communication strategies for the contaminants available in WCIT in case of intentional contamination. Risk communication may include press releases, interviews, or flyers to be handed out door-to-door, providing water users with information on the nature and extent of contamination, the meaning of different drinking water advisories, and actions that the utility will be taking to restore water to its customers. Risk communication may help lessen the psychological impact of an attack by enabling the utility to provide accurate and timely information to the public on the risks associated with the contaminant.

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Identification of Data Gaps
Data for properties relevant to fate and transport in water and drinking water treatment effectiveness are often not available for non-traditional drinking water contaminants. Data on the impact of contaminants on water quality parameters, effective on-line monitoring technologies and field tests that can be used for contaminant monitoring are also unavailable for many contaminants. EPA, the drinking water and wastewater sector, and others can use WCIT to identify these data gaps to inform researchers who support water security efforts. WCIT users can also be informed of the data gaps in order to consider how they will respond to contamination events before these data gaps are addressed.

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