25 May 2009
The Scottish government was worried about terrorists poisoning drinking water supplies in the aftermath of 9/11, according to secret documents released under freedom of information legislation.
In November 2001 water companies were ordered to speed up work to close gaps in the security of reservoirs. Ventilation systems had to be protected, while tamperproof access hatches, alarms and video surveillance had to be installed.
According to a memo from a senior Scottish government official, the work had to be completed “as soon as physically practicable”. Potential problems were also identified with the disposal of large amounts of water contaminated by a “chemical biological, radiological or nuclear attack”.
The memo expressed concern that emergency responses could be "over stretched" if there was more than one incident at once. There were also issues with the “supply of chemicals” and “other vulnerable points” but details have been blacked out.
In another memo, dated 9 November 2001 and marked “confidential”, a senior official discussed the risk of a terrorist attack. “The general risk was regarded as low, but the probability of an event happening at some point was higher,” he said.
“The consequences of such an incident would be casualties, contamination and disruption on a much larger scale from that for which we routinely planned.”
The Scottish government was ordered to release documents from its ‘civil contingencies’ file by the Scottish Information Commissioner, Kevin Dunion. The documents were originally requested in December 2005.
Scottish ministers issued security measures in 2002 to ensure that Scottish Water was adequately prepared to deal with any threats and emergencies, said a government spokesman. “Scottish Water provides ministers with an annual statement of compliance and, while it is not appropriate to detail security arrangements, we can confirm that the programme of works to increase security at service reservoirs is complete,” he added.