Cranleigh Civic Society was made aware recently by a concerned resident that some of the cold water supply pipes in our area are made from asbestos cement. The very word asbestos strikes fear into many people’s hearts. We contacted Thames Water who confirmed that indeed 29% of all the water supply pipes in Cranleigh are made from asbestos cement. We’re desperately searching for answers as to whether we need be concerned for the health of the village’s residents, so have written to all the relevant authorities below:
Drinking Water Inspectorate, Defra
Waverley Borough Council
Anne Milton, MP
Health and Safety Executive
Public Health England
Sue Penniston at DWI stated she believed there was no risk to public health, although she confirmed that they are still basing their advice on ingestion risk from old AC drinking water supply pipes from out of date World Health Organisation (WHO) reports dated 2003 and 2006. These reports concentrated on pulmonary risk, and barely mentioned non-pulmonary risk. Interestingly a later WHO report in 2014 has had the clause removed that had previously stated “no consistent evidence that ingested asbestos is hazardous to health”.
HSE responded that this doesn’t fall within their remit and removal of redundant buried asbestos cement pipes is not something they are obliged to do, and suggested we raise the matter with the local Environmental Health Department as they may be able to reassure the society about the health risks. They believe asbestos cement is a relatively low risk asbestos product and that there is no additional risk created by leaving it buried in the ground when it is no longer required for carrying water. Cranleigh Civic Society believes that there could be a risk to the workmen digging in the same area, unaware of its presence.
The Environmental Health Department at Waverley Borough Council has responded to say they are satisfied with the advice DWI have given them on this subject.
We continue to enquire about this very troubling issue and will update the website when we have more information.