Commentary and information about public safety and security, intelligence and counterintelligence, open government and secrecy, and other issues in northern Idaho and eastern Washington.

Location: Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, United States

Raised in Palouse, WA. Graduated from Washington State University. US Army (Counterintelligence). US Secret Service (Technical Security Division) in Fantasyland-on-the-Potomac and Los Angeles. Now living in north Idaho.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

A Federal Answer...Finally

My January 18, 2005, post recounted my December exchange of emails with an EPA representative in Seattle. My question was simple: Had the City of Coeur d'Alene complied with a federal bioterrorism law to help ensure the safety of our drinking water. The Seattle EPA representative instructed me to submit a Freedom of Information Act request to EPA headquarters. I did. Today, February 15, 2005, I received this reply:

Dear Mr. McCrory,

I have been assigned an on-line Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request from you regarding the City of Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. In your request you ask if the City of Coeur d'Alene drinking water system is in compliance with provisions of the "Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002" or "Bioterrorism Act" for short. Since you didn't specifically ask for any documents or a list of documents in your request, I have been informed by the FOIA experts here that we cannot process your request as currently worded. You would need to specifically ask for the Vulnerability Assessment Certification and Emergency Response Plan Certification in your FOIA request for us to process the request. Both these documents would show whether the City of Coeur d'Alene, Idaho is in compliance with Bioterrorism Act requirements.

Rather than have you re-submit your FOIA request and specifically ask for these two documents, I will expedite this whole process and answer your question directly. The City of Coeur d'Alene, Idaho has submitted all the appropriate documents and is in compliance with Bioterrorism Act requirements.

Before closing I would like to apologize for any bureaucratic hurdles or delays, either perceived by you or actually experienced. Rest assured that EPA wishes to answer inquiries by citizens on drinking water system security but at the same time balance this need for information against the security of the drinking water systems themselves.

Should you have any additional questions please feel free to contact me at (202) 564-3824 or via e-mail.


Andrew J. Bielanski
Environmental Engineer
Water Security Division
Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water (4601M)
Phone number: (202) 564-3824
Fax number: (202) 564-3755

I sincerely appreciate Mr. Bielanski's explaining the FOIA process that I would have to follow to get the reports from which I could have extracted the answer. But even more, I appreciate that he took the time to read and understand my request and then answer my question directly. His answer was not evasive and bureaucratic; it was thorough and helpful.


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