Crestview’s aging infrastructure makes news with cost and potential health implications.

The Crestview board held an emergency meeting in executive session on Saturday, December 11, to consider “Potential Litigation—Emergency Repairs Pipeline Relocation—Avocado & Ramona.”

When Public Works started this month to replace a culvert, they uncovered a “deteriorating” Crestview water main running under the Avocado Place pavement at a depth that interferes with the new culvert box.  The dispute seems to be about whether the County or Crestview should pay to relocate the water pipe deeper. The interesting thing is how complicated and expensive the relocation would be.  A $20,000 cost has been mentioned.

Like almost all the Crestview distribution and transfer mains, the pipe under Avocado Place is made of “asbestos cement, “AC,” or “transite.”  It was considered the best water pipe material available from the 1940s to the 1970s, and most of Crestview’s mains were installed in that era.

After 1973, the asbestos fiber content in AC pipe was reduced from 12 percent to less than 0.2 percent. By the 1980s the popularity of AC pipe had waned dramatically due to fears of liability and the availability of PVC pipe. Manufacturers stopped producing AC pipe in the United States; however, the machines were moved to other countries (including Mexico and Saudi Arabia), and AC pipe is still produced and available today.

It may be that any AC pipe installed by Crestview after 1973 does not contain enough asbestos to trigger the regulations, but probably most of the existing pipe does.  AC water mains are said to have a design life of 50 years but may last 70 years.  Crestview has been installing them since its founding in 1950.  When will Crestview have to replace the AC pipe under Avocado Place–and elsewhere in the system?  What will that cost, and how will we pay for it?

The main health concern about asbestos is airborne fibers, which can cause lung cancer and other diseases.  There are EPA and OSHA regulations requiring special precautions to be taken when tapping into, removing, or working on AC pipes.  Materials removed must be treated and disposed of as “hazardous wastes.”  Hazardous waste workers, haulers, and disposal sites must all follow $pecial procedure$.

AC pipe is not generally thought to be a drinking water safety problem, but concerns are emerging where the concentration of asbestos fibers exceeds the Safe Drinking Water Act standard of 7 million fibers per liter.  Crestview tests our water quality annually, but it does not test for asbestos.  Should it?

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