Utility district replacing water lines due to asbestos violation

By Julie Fann
Star Staff

BUTLER -- The Carderview Utility District will use recently approved federal grant money to replace five miles of water lines due to an asbestos violation issued by the state against the district in the fall 2002. Additional funds will also be used for the construction of a new office and a new well, according to Sharon Church, district manager.
   "We've got some water lines that are about 50 years old that were made with asbestos that have to be replaced. The new ones will be made with ductile iron ... the state says the lines are OK now and the water is OK to drink, but, if anyone experiences a problem, they should see their doctor," Church said.
   According to Gaye Irwin, program manager for the state's Department of Environment and Conservation, a safe standard (called MCL's, or Maximum Contaminant Levels) for asbestos content is 7 million fibers-per-liter. During routine quarterly testing in October, results revealed an asbestos content of 2,494 million fibers-per-liter for the district.
   "Lines deteriorate with age, and the asbestos fibers begin to break down. What we believe happened is that there was a line break. The line was repaired and flushed, and, when they tested the water afterward, they got a worst case scenario sample. That's probably why the number was so high," Irwin said.
   Asbestos testing in January showed a sharp decline, with a content of 317 million fibers-per-liter, according to Church, who recently sent samples taken last week for the current quarter and is still waiting for those results.
   Church said she didn't know how long it will take before the lines will be replaced or when the district will receive funding for the project.
   The utility district has been using sodium hydroxide to deter the deterioration of water lines until workers install the new ones. The chemical is fed and metered by a pump on a 24-hour basis. "It's put in constantly like a drip and has helped a lot," Church said.
   Streets where asbestos lines are located include Piercetown Road, Scott Street, and McQueen, Pine, and Imogene Streets, Church said.
   The majority of funds for replacement of the water lines consist of a $157,000 federal grant expedited through the office of Congressman Bill Jenkins (R-1st), and a loan of $124,700 that carries an interest rate of 4.5 percent for a period of 38 years. The money is provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Development office.
   The project is co-funded by a $221,340 Community Development Block Grant to pay for the office. Grant funds also include a $75,000 Emergency Community Water Assistance Grant.
   A total of 310 existing water users will benefit from the project, according to a press release issued through the office of Congressman Jenkins.
   According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Web site, oral exposure to asbestos may be associated with cancer of the esophagus, stomach, and intestines. However, the evidence on cancer from oral asbestos exposure is not conclusive, the Web site stated.