The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation is reviewing a break-in at a water treatment plant 75 miles (120 kilometers) northwest of Atlanta on concern that the perpetrator intended greater harm such as terrorism.
Someone used keys to enter the Carters Lake Water Treatment Plant in Murray County on April 26 and “tampered with” the equipment controlling how much chlorine and fluoride is added to the water, Sheriff Gary Langford said today by telephone.
The next morning, employees noticed the improper settings and called the police, said Steve Smith, general manager of the Chatsworth Water Works Commission that runs the facility. The FBI joined the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and local authorities in a criminal investigation.
“Whoever it was knew how to work a water plant,” Smith said. “Anytime you mess with the public water supply, it’s a whole different matter” that warranted calling the FBI.
A do-not-drink advisory was issued as a precaution even though the water with improper levels of chemicals is believed to have been contained at the plant, which only operates on alternate days and wasn’t running on April 26 when the break-in happened, Smith said.
He said the facility’s chlorine equipment, which was in a locked room, was turned too high and the fluoride gear in an unlocked room was set too low.
All the locks have been changed and electronic keypads are being installed, Smith said. The plant didn’t have video cameras, although the water commission is considering adding them, he said.
The FBI is concerned about the potential for greater harm related to the break-in, although there weren’t any immediate indications of that, said Stephen Emmett, special agent and spokesman for the bureau’s Atlanta office.