Killing or sickening large numbers of people through water contamination would not be easy. Someone would need access to a large amount of chemicals and be able to dump them in a sensitive spot, which would likely attract attention, said Stephen Flynn, director of the Center for Resilience Studies at Northeastern University.
“It turns out to be fairly difficult to cause a life-threatening level of danger by essentially attacking the water system with chemicals,” Flynn said. “You need a lot of chemicals, and it becomes really challenging operationally for bad people to do this on any real scale.”
While no one became seriously ill in West Virginia, it was hugely disruptive as 300,000 people went without tap water for at least five days. And the long-term effects of exposure to the chemical are unknown.
Stricter regulation of chemicals and water facilities would prevent such accidents and deter terrorists, Flynn said.