Got deteriorating asbestos cement water mains?


Asbestos has come to be one of the most feared words and materials in the world. Yet, in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, more than 600,000 miles of asbestos cement– also called transite – used for its light weight, corrosion resistance, rigidity, ease of handling and installation was installed to handle water throughout the United States. Applications included potable water mains, storm drains and sanitary sewers.

Projected to have a 50- to 70-year life expectancy, decaying AC pipes today are a major source of asbestos in drinking water and pose even greater threats when they are removed or repaired. It is the 12 to 15 percent of chrysotile asbestos fibers added to the Portland cement for strength and corrosion resistance that causes the health hazards. So what are municipalities and public works entities to do?

Most states do not require public or private utilities or municipalities to remove and replace AC pipe. But, the increasing incidence of decaying pipes in residential areas that should be considered for removal or rehabilitated by pipe bursting or pipe reaming, are subject to strict and costly EPA and/or other supervisory bodies and regulations. Major downsides to this are both the high costs and, naturally, safety concerns.

Health hazards associated with asbestos cement pipes, when asbestos fibers are inhaled, can be caused by breaking, cutting, drilling, filing, scraping, surface cleaning, sanding or even dismantling. Thus, the reasons for national agencies to step in when using the above ways to replace or repair this type of pipe.

There is good news that solutions exist today – and that is cured-in-place-pipe lining (CIPP), a trenchless rehabilitation process that can and does present a low-cost solution in situations where AC pipe can be rehabilitated. To date, several projects, among them one in Alaska and numerous new ones pending across the United States, have demonstrated that CIPP is a viable alternative to other methods, and, as compared to structurally relining cast iron piping, offers even greater savings. Best of all, this is without the attendant costs, strictures and safeguards imposed by the EPA.

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