In light of the recent story about a hacker who gained control of a water supply system in Florida, the Bethpage Water District would like to put our customers' mind at ease.
In the report, the hacker tried to increase the pH to dangerous levels by increasing the amount of sodium hydroxide to the water supply. Sodium Hydroxide, also known as caustic, lime or lye, is a tasteless, colorless, odorless, salt-based chemical used to regulate pH in the water supplies across the globe. In very small doses, the chemical can be used safely like many things we use everyday in our environment.
The natural pH of our water is aggressive and acidic, ranging from 4.5-5.0, and the caustic is used to adjust and increase the pH to our normal system-wide range of 8.3-8.5. This level is less aggressive to plumbing fixtures and also helps some personal products like soap lather better. In fact, the body prefers higher pH water than a lower pH.
Our systems have multiple layers of alarms to protect from an overfeed and even have layers to protect from employee sabotage. Our SCADA system is very comprehensive and secure and extremely unlikely to be accessed by a hacker. However, in that obscure event, there are local alarms, emails and text chains that will notify personnel and protect the system from itself.
A big shout out to the water plant operator in Florida who caught the issue before it became a bigger problem and protected the health of his customers. It is something that all water suppliers take extremely seriously and a testament to the 24/7 monitoring of your local water system, regardless of its size.