No plans to replace asbestos water pipes
NORTHERN Ireland Water has no specific plans to replace asbestos water mains on roads in the Dungannon, Cookstown and Magherafelt Districts, Mid-Ulster MLA, Patsy McGlone, has been told.
Mr McGlone had tabled a question to Stormont Minister for Regional Development, Danny Kennedy, regarding the issue of using asbestos cement water pipes.
The Mid-Ulster SDLP man also asked what investigations had been undertaken by the DRD into the potential health implications of using pipes made from asbestos cement.
In reply, the Minister said: “I have been advised by Northern Ireland Water (NIW) that, as the use of asbestos cement water mains for the supply of drinking water is not a health concern, there is no specific programme to replace them.
“Asbestos cement water mains will be replaced progressively as part of NIW’s ongoing Water Mains Rehabilitation Programme. Decisions on mains replacement are taken on the basis of normal serviceability criteria such as water quality, the number of burst mains per kilometre, low water pressure or the number of interruptions to the supply to customers.”
In relation to Mr McGlone’s question regarding health implications, Mr Kennedy said he had been advised that the use of asbestos cement pipe work for the distribution of drinking water has been “widely researched” by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The Minister continued: “Studies carried out by WHO in 1993, 1996, 1998 and 2004 concluded that whilst asbestos is a known human carcinogen by the inhalation route, available epidemiological studies do not support the hypothesis that an increased cancer risk is associated with the ingestion of asbestos in drinking water.
“WHO has concluded there is no consistent, convincing evidence that ingested asbestos is hazardous to health and there are therefore no guideline values for asbestos in drinking water.
“The health concerns regarding asbestos cement pipes are related to occupational exposure during their manufacture, installation and disposal and these are covered by industry regulations. Any work undertaken by NIW staff on asbestos cement pipe work is in accordance with legislative requirements and associated Health and Safety guidance. NIW employs a ‘Safe System of Work’ in line with industry practice and is confident that employees are not being put at risk whilst working with these pipes.”
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