WSSC on ‘high alert’ after water hack in Florida

Feb 12, 2021

A hacker trying to poison the water supply in the city of Oldsmar, Florida, last week raised new concerns nationwide, but it highlighted a familiar threat within the water industry.

“Did this place us on high alert? Absolutely,” said David McDonough, director of police and homeland security at the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission.

McDonough said, however, that such a threat is not new or surprising.

“We’re always watching for information on threats and vulnerabilities, whatever they might be,” he said. “We’re actively trying to defend against them every day.”

The WSSC is responsible for drinking water and wastewater treatment in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties in Maryland.

McDonough said the utility gets constant updates on potential threats from local, state and federal authorities. “We have dedicated cybersecurity personnel,” he said.

McDonough added that the utility has water operators, supervisors and security officers watching the system around-the-clock, and that 500,000 water quality tests are done throughout the system each year.

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