The village’s water purification system is new, but the pipes that carry it to most homes in Nakusp are past their life expectancy and need replacing.

The village’s water purification system is new, but the pipes that carry it to most homes in Nakusp are past their life expectancy and need replacing.

Village faces $5.1 million bill for water mains

Aging asbestos-cement pipes should have been replaced years ago

The Village of Nakusp faces a $5.1 million bill to replace its aging network of asbestos-concrete water mains — a project it should have started nearly 15 years ago.

That’s the main recommendation from an assessment of the village’s water system by a consultant.

The vast majority of the village’s 54 kilometres [34 miles] of water main pipe is made up of pipe installed in 1968, made from concrete mixed with asbestos.

It makes up 85 per cent of the piping, while the rest of the network is split between plastic or ductile iron pipe.

While the plastic and iron pipe still have years before they need replacement, the asbestos-cement pipe is long past its ‘best-before’ date.

“The AC pipe in the network is aging and is reaching or is past its expected life,” says the report, adding the village should have begun replacing it 14 years ago.

And some might be much older than that.

“However, the exact age and material of much of the network infrastructure is unknown,” the report says. “For this reason, where no information exists identifying when a water main was installed or its material, it has been assumed that AC pipe was installed in 1968.”

At least there’s a bit of good news.

“Although the asbestos cement pipe has been in service longer that its life expectancy, maintenance experience has found that most of the AC pipe in Nakusp is still in reasonably good condition,” the report says. Still, “[r]eplacement of AC pipe as part of a capital infrastructure management plan should be considered a priority moving forward.”

The report says replacing the pipe will come with a hefty price tag- $5.135 millon.

The study was done by WSA Engineering, a consultant from Castlegar. The study reviewed the village’s infrastructure, with an eye to helping council set its spending priorities for replacing the assets.

Asbestos-cement pipe has been used extensively by municipalities since the 1930s, but has been slowly phased out over the last few decades, mostly because of concerns about airborne asbestos during instillation.

There’s debate on whether asbestos in water should be considered a hazard- asbestos, a reasonably common element, can be found in water that doesn’t come through asbestos pipes.

The World Health Organization said in a 1993 report on drinking water guidelines that there is “no consistent evidence that ingested asbestos is hazardous to health”. It concluded there was no need to establish a health-based guideline for the element in drinking water.

“Although well studied, there has been little convincing evidence of the carcinogenicity of ingested asbestos in epidemiological studies of populations with drinking water supplies containing high concentrations of asbestos,”the agency said. “Moreover in extensive studies in laboratory species, asbestos has not consistently increased the incidence of tumours of the gastrointestinal tract.”

Roofing the reservoir

That’s not the only spending priority for public works the report highlights. It also says the village’s 200,000-gallon water reservoir needs a new cover, which collects rainwater on top of the water supply.

”Interior Health has repeatedly expressed concerns regarding the pooling water and there is currently no plan in place to rectify the situation to IHA standards,” the report says.

It suggests one option could be to cover the reservoir with a large steel building, at a cost anywhere between $750,000- $1 million.