After a long fight by Cranleigh Civic Society, Thames Water have agreed to start replacing Cranleigh’s asbestos cement drinking water pipes starting in 2018.
29.6% of our drinking water pipes are old and made from asbestos cement (compared to an average throughout SE England of just 2%). The design life of these pipes is 50 to 70 years, and as some of these were installed in the early 1960’s, they are starting to decay and burst.
During the last nine months, a team from Thames Water has met with Cranleigh Civic Society several times to discuss the problem, and Thames Water has carried out tests on samples of burst pipes to determine the composition of the materials used. They have found a mixture of white and blue asbestos. On the 5th October, the team from Thames Water announced to Cranleigh Civic Society that they will start a programme of replacement in Spring 2018 (they will need the time between now and then for planning and to seek the licences that will be needed).
Cranleigh Civic Society is grateful to Thames Water who have been open and helpful in giving advice, and also to them for carrying out tests on the samples of burst pipe. On the 9th October, Thames Water told us that they have identified over 3 km of pipes to replace, and we are awaiting confirmation from them as to how much of our old asbestos cement network that accounts for, and over what period of time the replacement programme will take place.
Thames Water has advised us that they have secured the funding for this project, which comes out of central pot and will not impact on our bills locally.
New housing being built in Cranleigh must comply with current Building Regulations that require a minimum 1 bar drinking water pressure provision. This is because many new houses nowadays are provided with unvented hot water systems, which work on higher pressure than the old “indirect” systems based on a header tank in the attic space. Over the past three months the number of burst water pipes has increased considerably with over 20 bursts occurring, some leaving residents without water for days at a time. This has coincided with the building of new housing estates in the village.
Cranleigh Civic Society’s opinion is that if more new housing estates are connected onto the existing network before Thames Water has finished replacing the old asbestos cement pipes, the number of bursts will increase exponentially, and could raise the risk of more free asbestos fibres entering the drinking water network.
We think these old asbestos cement pipes in the Cranleigh area should be replaced BEFORE more new houses are connected to the network.