Asbestos in water supply caused by old pipe

The main street of Temuka. - Photo: Google

The replacement of Temuka's asbestos cement water pipes should be closely studied by other councils, Timaru district's mayor says.

Yesterday the council voted to spend $3 million replacing nine kilometres of cement pipes in Temuka's main line with new plastic ones, after asbestos was found in its water supply last month.

Timaru council group manager infrastructure Ashley Harper said the issue was caused by internal failure of the current pipe in the town's main line.

"Since the issue was first confirmed on 6 December, we've had our whole team working on both temporary and permanent solutions and I'm pleased that we can now get the final job underway," he said.

Asbestos cement pipes, which have about a 50-year life span, were commonly installed in New Zealand in the 1950s to 1970s.

The district's mayor, Damon Odey, said the pipes in Temuka were thought to have another 20 years of life left - but they had failed and it was important to find out why.

"Our pipe was actually inspected in 2015 and it looked to have another two decades [left] in it and for whatever reason, internally it has just started to strip away so ... we need to do a lot more analysis once we fix this problem and definitely share that with the rest of our sector."

Mr Odey said in coming years some asbestos cement pipes around New Zealand would reach the end of their life span.

He said said for all councils, providing fresh, clean water for their communities should be at the front of their minds.

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