Asbestos cement water pipes:
hypocrisy at work
My research looks at the way conductive water pipe is involved in the cancer growth process, and I am convinced that there will be little or no effort on the part of water suppliers to remedy this fault. One of the reasons for my being convinced is that there already is a double standard when it comes to public health, that is, those who make the rules don't or won't abide by those rules.
Asbestos water pipe is one such example. If you or I applied to a local council, city council or other territorial authority to build a house with an asbestos roof we would be regarded as the scum of the earth, and that's without suggesting that we might collect the water off that roof for drinking! Yet it is highly probable that that same authority has hundreds of metres of asbestos water pipe without any intention of replacing it.
This case study is of North Island, New Zealand, reticulated water supplies. It's not exhaustive but I think the point will be made. The information was obtained via the various territorial authority Water and Sanitary Services Assessments (WASSAs) and Asset Management Plans (AMPs), both of which are mandatory documents and are publicly available. They can either be found on councils' websites or obtained by verbal request. Elected councillors will have read these reports in detail and approved their publication.
Here's a snapshot of the % of asbestos cement pipes in a representative sample of local authorities:
41 % Whangarei:
07 % Auckland:
40 % Hamilton:
36 % Tauranga:
49 % Napier:
42 % Hastings:
31 % New Plymouth:
15 % Wanganui:
43 % Palmerston North:
11 % Masterton:
30 % Wellington:
A private citizen wouldn't have a hope in hell of getting a consent to use asbestos water pipe in a private home, but it's OK for authorities to continue to use it to supply us with tap water.
A snapshot of New Zealand
Much of the legislation supports this hypocrisy. The Building Act, for instance, sets out performance requirements for health and safety in buildings, and for those who work in the building industry. Failure to meet those requirements has severe penalties, clearly defined in the Act. Yet there are no penalties defined where an authority fails to meet performance standards. The result is that an authority has the power to tailor an offence to match an activity they wish to discourage, the victim of such an abuse being made a criminal under criminal law, while a failure of an authority to meet it's obligations isn't criminal law but civil law requiring the victim of any failure to initiate legal proceedings at their own expense. The reality can be and often is a gross unmitigated abuse of power.
As an example of the processes involved in this double standard, and to demonstrate how money is diverted from core responsibilities, the following is a process occurring in my neck of the woods: Carterton District, New Zealand.
Carterton has approximately 60% of its water piping as asbestos cement. One of the major difficulties engineers have in replacing asbestos pipe is, of course, getting the funding to do it. Carterton's water pipe system has a replacement value of $5.6 million and a depreciated value of $2.9 million, with $0.08 million/annum depreciation allowed annually. $5.6 million divided by $0.08 million/annum gives us 70 years, which tallies with an expected lifespan of water pipe of 70 years.
Competing for funding is a proposed new community centre seating 300 people and costing, by the latest estimate from the Council website, around $5.6 million, i.e. the same as the replacement value of all the pipe in the water reticulation system. Removal of asbestos cement pipe would be 60% of this. It doesn't take rocket science to work out which will go ahead!
At the same time, in the next town some 10 miles away, a rather well designed historic hall of significant architectural merit and seating in excess of 300 people has been demolished for want of political will to have it relocated. It doesn't get more decadent than this, surely?
The double standard
An example: Carterton District
Do it yourself
I think this demonstrates that, even if it is accepted that conductive water pipe carrying mains power is the cause of the cancer and heart failure epidemics, authorities responsible for maintaining water supplies won't do anything to fix them because they can't get their heads around asbestos yet! Carterton District Council will be little different to a lot of other councils around the country. Short of councils being forced to upgrade via legislation, the only option for you and I is to look after ourselves by setting up our own water supplies and, like councils, that means upsetting the inertia of continuum and consciously making the decision to set up a still, bore or rainwater tank rather than pretending that the system failure will sort itself out.
Stephen G Butcher (Posted 08/10/08)
On that basis the Carterton District Council would appear to be spreading asbestos pipe replacement over 70 years, so the last of it would be ripped out around 2040. So removing asbestos isn't receiving any urgency at all.
Source: Carterton District Council web site
Take a thermos to the opening of the crass new building.