$8B Cleanup of Asbestos Water Piping

Original Story:  Asbestos-laden water piping 'needs upgrading at cost of $8 billion' by Matt Peacock

Water consumers will face a hefty estimated charge of $8 billion to safely remove asbestos piping being used in Australia, according to the nation's peak water industry body, The Water Services Association of Australia. About 40,000 kilometres of water pipelines contain asbestos cement that is starting to wear out, the body said.

It is not widely realised that many of Australia's water pipes were made by Australia's biggest asbestos manufacturer, James Hardie. "Hardies had a number of factories around the country that just made pipes and they were predominantly used by the different water companies around Australia," said lawyer Tanya Segelov, who is a member of the council for the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency. "There are millions and millions of pipes around the country that remain in the ground that are now 50, 60 or 70 years old."

The Water Services Association of Australia told 7.30 some of the pipes are coming to the end of their useful life. "So water utilities are monitoring how those pipes are working, how they are holding up," the association's managing director Adam Lovell said.

The pipes are located all over Australia but they are most concentrated in regional areas, where sometimes up to half of all water pipelines are made with asbestos cement. There is no evidence the pipes can cause cancer by drinking water from them, but there is a potential danger from dust when the pipes are disturbed.

To fix worn-out pipes is a major expense. "We estimate that just to rehabilitate all of the asbestos cement pipelines out there is in the order of $8 billion," Mr Lovell said.