Asbestos is a naturally occurring fibrous mineral that is resistant to heat and most chemicals. It has been used in more than 3,000 different products and in the construction industry. Asbestos is grouped with the other 14 Inorganic Contaminants regulated in drinking water. It may occur in drinking water by a corrosive action on asbestos cement pipe contained in a water system. Asbestos has been known to be a carcinogen if subjected to long-term exposure above the Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL). Short-term exposure at levels above the Maximum Contaminant Level is not known to cause any health problems.
Yes, if you are served by a community or non-transient non-community public water system, the asbestos regulations apply to your system. If asbestos is unlikely to occur in your water source and your water system does not have asbestos cement pipe, your system may be granted a sampling waiver. A public water system that is granted a waiver will not have to monitor for asbestos. If your system does have asbestos cement pipe and your water is non-corrosive, your system may also be eligible for a waiver.
One sample is required every nine years. Samples are taken at sites served by asbestos cement pipes. Waivers are available to eliminate this sampling.
The Maximum Contaminant Level for asbestos is 7 million fibers/liter (longer than 10 micrometers). If your system is required to test for asbestos and it has asbestos cement pipe, the sample will be taken at a tap served by the AC pipe. If your system has asbestos in the source water only, then the test will be at the source. If the sample is over the Maximum Contaminant Level, then quarterly testing is required.
Complete the initial monitoring, apply for a waiver, and perform a vulnerability assessment.
If the level of asbestos exceeds the Maximum Contaminant Level, the system must notify the public within 30 days by mail or direct home delivery. The public notice must be repeated every quarter that the violation exists.
There is no plan to call for the removal of existing pipe, but a water system may need to provide corrosion control if there is asbestos cement pipe in their system. More important may be the need to plan for materials and procedures to repair existing asbestos cement pipe in the future
The greatest risk related to asbestos cement pipe is to the maintenance worker who is repairing or otherwise coming into contact with the pipe. Inhalation of the dust (fibers) from cutting the pipe is particularly hazardous. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) of the Department of Labor have published rules concerning occupational exposure to asbestos. If you work with asbestos cement pipe, contact your state Department of Labor for information on these rules.