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.
Do the Asbestos regulations apply to my water system?
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.
Frequency of Sampling
One sample is required every nine years. Samples are taken at sites served by asbestos cement pipes. Waivers are available to eliminate this sampling.
Maximum Contaminant Level
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.
Actions your water system should be taking
Complete the initial monitoring, apply for a waiver, and perform a vulnerability assessment.
If your tests indicate levels of asbestos higher than the maximum contaminant level (MCL), your system is in violation and they must:
- Test quarterly
- Notify the Drinking Water Program and complete public notification as required.
- Work with the Drinking Water Program to determine if asbestos is from your source and/or is being leached from your asbestos cement pipe. Plan a corrective action.
- The following treatment methods have been approved by EPA for removing asbestos: Coagulation/Filtration, Direct and Diatomite Filtration, Corrosion Control.
- Contact resource agencies listed in the resource agencies section of this pamphlet for help in working out financial needs.
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.
Other important considerations
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.
The rules for Asbestos are contained in 40 CFR 141.23 (b).
The rules of OSHA on Occupations exposure to Asbestos are contained in 29 CFR 1910 and 1926.