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1998-04-30 11:18:05


Toxic Catastrophe: A Y2K Water Utility Test


Governments regulate public utilities. People assume that public utilities are safe because of this regulation. This faith in government will be tested in 2000.

This was published in the SUN-HERALD, an Australian newspaper, on April 26: "How Y2K could kill a town: Tests Reveal Potential Catastrophe."

The story reports that state agencies conducted the test. It does not say that local officials did. Thus, the test was probably a simulation, not an actual test with real effluent. But as these stories spread, the public will begin to have doubts.

In the year 2000, these doubts will be confirmed.

There is no Web link.

* * * * * * *

Enough toxic chemicals would have been released into Coff's Harbour's water supply to kill its entire population, under a test on the likely impact of the millennium bug.

Simulations by State agencies on the impact of the bug, caused by computers' inability to recognize the date 2000, have highlighted the potential for environmental catastrophe. . . .

Tests have been conducted by several State government agencies, with alarming results, as officials try to remedy the problem of computers and micro-processors not recognising the date 2000.

When microprocessors at Coffs Harbour's water-storage facility were tuned in to 2000 dates in a simulation, the entire chemical holdings - normally used in carefullly regulated amounts to purify water - were dumped into the water in one hit. Experts say this would have the potential to kill the town's entire population.

The results of the experiment have intensified concerns in big agencies covering the police, Corrective Services, Health and Transport about what could happen on January 1, 2000.

State Information Technology Minister Kim Yeadon has ordered all 400 government departments and statutory authorities to report on their exposure to the so-called Y2K bug by June. He will deliver a report on the problem, focusing on vulnerable utility providers - mainly water, gas and electricity - to Cabinet.

A detailed timetable and list of priorities will then be developed to ensure NSW does not suffer bug-related breakdowns. . . .

[Retyped from a faxed copy of the original newspaper article]

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