Break-in at water treatment plant raises public safety concerns

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Authorities said sometime last weekend, someone broke in and altered the chemical settings in the filtration system, in effect poisoning the water.

ATLANTA - A break-in at a small north Georgia water treatment plant is raising alarms among security experts.

Channel 2's Tony Thomas visited Murray County Tuesday night where a small water treatment plant sits atop a mountain on the Murray/Gilmer county line

Authorities said sometime last weekend, someone broke in and altered the chemical settings in the filtration system, in effect poisoning the water.

For Jeff Dorward and about 450 of his neighbors, it's meant days of boiling their water and at times having no water until authorities make sure the water is clean.

"I never gave it a thought up here, someone going to come up and do the water," resident Jim Davis said.

Out of "an abundance of caution," the FBI and state investigators are also taking a look, wondering if the situation could be a test run of someone planning a large attack.

"We are aware of the vulnerabilities of the water works, certainly (that) is something that concerns us, especially when someone is resetting chemical mixtures," said Steve Emmett with the FBI's Atlanta Division

Unlike most facilities around metro Atlanta, there are no roaming security guards or cameras at the plant, just a rusty barbed wire fence, a sign and a small lock.

"It's got to be one of the top five major concerns," said Brent Brown, an Atlanta based security expert. "In a heartbeat it could shut a city down, if you think about the very thing that is consistent with everyone."

"To date there have been no additional threats. We are still looking at what this means," Emmett said.

Investigators said whoever broke into the facility knew enough to mess with the chemical mixtures, but apparently not enough to actually send the bad water out into the lines.

Authorities said they have no idea who might have done this.