The Town of Qualicum Beach has taken due diligence to ensure that its water distribution system does not have the presence of asbestos.
Concerns were raised following a recent episode of CTV’s W5 news program that reported asbestos-cement water pipes that were installed during the 1940s through the 1970s in municipalities across Canada and are now a possible health risk.
Director of engineering and capital projects, Bob Weir said that while the dangers of airborne asbestos fibres are well documented, Health Canada indicated there is no consistent and convincing evidence of health risk from asbestos in drinking water. And to date, there is still no established maximum allowable contaminant level in Canada.
Weir informed council at its regular meeting on May 24 that despite Health Canada’s position on the issue, staff decided to take precautionary measures by having an analysis conducted on the town’s water system for asbestos structures.
Because none of the laboratories that regularly provide water quality testing services to the town offer analysis of drinking water for asbestos, they commissioned Sauvé Safety Services of Victoria to do the job.
Samples were collected at four of the Town’s sampling sites and were analyzed at International Asbestos Testing Laboratories in Mount Laurel, New Jersey.
Weir reported to council that out of the eight samples analyzed, no asbestos were detected at seven of the testing sites, but had one sample that had a single fibre.
“I stated that Canada doesn’t have a maximum allowable level, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has a maximum allowable contaminant level of seven million fibres per liter,” Weir explained. “So, I think our one is kind of within the lines. So, we concluded that the samples collected from representative locations containing asbestos cement pipes within the water distribution system for the Town of Qualicum Beach, we found no issue with asbestos structures in drinking water at this time.”
Weir said they will continue to monitor and assess the condition of the pipe segments.
“And based on the likelihood and consequence of failure, we will prioritize our replacement decisions,” said Weir.
Coun. Anne Skipsey thanked town staff for finding a place and company to do the test for the town.
“I think it’s important and it sets the mind at ease,” said Skipsey. “I really appreciate getting that information and having you do that.”
Council voted to receive the information and to have it included in the minutes of council’s next regular meeting agenda.