A recent Environmental Protection Agency ruling has determined the town of Randolph, N.J. cannot replace an aging, asbestos water pipe with the original plan they had proposed because it will create an environmental hazard.
John Lovell, Randolph’s township manager, has stated that the EPA’s ruling was unexpected and could add $75,000 to the already budgeted $1.6 million. For this reason, the entire project has been put on hold for further brainstorming. The water pipe needs to be replaced because of its age and size, as it is too small to accommodate the needs of the expanding town.
The proposed method is called pipe-bursting, and involves a larger pipe being inserted through the existing pipe. This causes pieces of the existing pipe to break off well below street level. Although originally suspected that this method would work, the EPA has since determined that even though the asbestos pipe pieces will be buried, it still has the potential for dangerous asbestos exposure.
Exposure to asbestos can cause numerous health problems including mesothelioma, a rare and aggressive cancer that is caused almost solely by asbestos. The average life expectancy for a victim post-diagnosis is around a year. If the asbestos-containing pipe pieces are not removed after the pipe has burst, as recommended by the EPA, the area would be declared a waste-disposal site.
Now, the town of Randolph must establish a new solution for replacing the old pipe. Although the figures for New Jersey’s water pipes that are asbestos-containing are unknown, it has been estimated that about 15 percent of the pipes used for major water lines in the United States are made with some of the deadly fiber.