TAMPA, Fla. — Local and federal authorities are investigating after an attempt Friday to poison the city of Oldsmar’s water supply, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said.
Someone remotely accessed a computer for the city’s water treatment system and briefly increased the amount of sodium hydroxide, also known as lye, by a factor of more than 100, Gualtieri said at a news conference Monday. The chemical is used in small amounts to control the acidity of water but it’s also a corrosive compound commonly found in household cleaning supplies such as liquid drain cleaners.
The city’s water supply was not affected. A supervisor working remotely saw the concentration being changed on his computer screen and immediately reverted it, Gualtieri said. City officials on Monday emphasized that several other safeguards are in place to prevent contaminated water from entering the water supply and said they’ve disabled the remote-access system used in the attack.
The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office is investigating, along with the FBI and the Secret Service, Gualtieri said.
Nobody has been arrested, Gualtieri said, though investigators have some leads. They do not know why the city of Oldsmar was targeted, he said. He added that other area municipalities have been alerted to the attack and encouraged to inspect the safeguards to their water treatment systems and other infrastructure.
Though some cities obtain water through Pinellas County, Oldsmar provides water directly to its businesses and roughly 15,000 residents, Gualtieri said. The computer system at the water treatment plant was set up to allow authorized users to remotely access it for troubleshooting.
A plant operator was monitoring the system at about 8 a.m. EST Friday and noticed that someone briefly accessed it. He didn’t find this unusual, Gualtieri said, because his supervisor remotely accessed the system regularly.
But at about 1:30 p.m. the same day, Gualtieri said, someone accessed the system again. This time, he said, the…