Assessing Potential Impacts Associated with Contamination Events in Water Distribution Systems: A Sensitivity Analysis   [open pdf - 6MB]

"An understanding of the nature of the adverse effects that could be associated with contamination events in water distribution systems is necessary for carrying out vulnerability analyses and designing contamination warning systems. This study examines the adverse effects of contamination events using models for 12 actual water systems that serve populations ranging from about 104 to over 106 persons. The measure of adverse effects that we use is the number of people who are exposed to a contaminant above some dose level due to ingestion of contaminated tap water. For this study the number of such people defines the impact associated with an event. We consider a wide range of dose levels in order to accommodate a wide range of potential contaminants. For a particular contaminant, dose level can be related to a health effects level. For example, a dose level could correspond to the median lethal dose, i.e., the dose that would be fatal to 50% of the exposed population. The dose level required to reach a common endpoint can vary by orders of magnitude, depending on the toxicity of the contaminant. Highly toxic contaminants may be associated with a particular response at a very low dose level, whereas contaminants with low toxicity may only be associated with the same response at a much higher dose level. This report focuses on the sensitivity of impacts to five factors that either define the nature of a contamination event or involve assumptions that are used in assessing exposure to the contaminant: (1) duration of contaminant injection, (2) time of contaminant injection, (3) quantity or mass of contaminant injected, (4) population distribution in the water distribution system, and (5) the ingestion pattern of the potentially exposed population. For each of these factors, the sensitivities of impacts to injection location and contaminant toxicity are also examined."

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