Do the Wellington and South Wairarapa water pipe networks contain asbestos fibres?
Yes. Asbestos cement (AC) was used extensively within the pipe network following the Second World War, particularly in the 1960s and 1970s. Asbestos cement pipes were an integral part of infrastructure investment in New Zealand until 1986, when manufacture and installation of AC pipes ceased. AC water pipes are common, not only throughout New Zealand, but across the world. The pipes are gradually being phased out, as we replace older pipes as part of our ongoing renewal and replacement project work.
Asbestos cement pipelines deteriorate over time, and asbestos fibres can be released into the water supply as the pipelines age. This occurs over a long period of time. We monitor and carefully control the Ph and alkalinity levels in the water at our treatment plants to minimise the impact of decay and internal corrosion on the pipe network.
Is the presence of asbestos fibres in our water pipe network a health risk?
Wellington Water refers to the Ministry of Health advice on the health risk associated with asbestos fibres in water pipe networks and drinking water. We also refer to the World Health Organisation's health advice and research.
Taumata Arowai - the water services regulator for Aotearoa - have not included asbestos on the list of determinants to measure as part of the Drinking Water Standards coming into force on the 1 July 2022.