When the Public Works Commission for the town of Arp, Texas was flushing the town’s water system a few weeks ago, one of its employees saw something strange in the water.
It was certainly some sort of foreign substance; something that shouldn’t have been in the town’s drinking water. That was for sure. But what was it.
It didn’t take long to find out.
“Around July 26, we were out flushing and I noticed just a big glob of fiber,” said Lonnie Petty, Assistant Public Works Director, in a story aired on KLTV. “You could tell it wasn’t normal, so I caught a sample of it, we had it tested, and it came back asbestos.”
Petty promptly put in a call to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) who sent a representative out the next day to take another sample and run its own tests.
The TCEQ determined that the drinking water for the city was well over the maximum contaminant level for asbestos.
Mr. Petty, however, is trying to get the word out that he believes this problem isn’t a long-standing one and is attempting to convince locals that there’s really nothing to worry about. At least, that’s his opinion.
“Testing on the 26th was the first time we had it come through,” says Petty. “We’ve never had anything before that.”
The culprit? Old asbestos water pipes that have been in place for decades are likely beginning to decay and pieces are being released into the water supply. For now, it seems, the city of Arp is doing what they can to slow down the decay.
“We’ve changed the chemicals to keep the pipe together, so that it’s not deteriorating as bad,” stated Petty. “But the only way you’re going to fix the problem is to get them out of the ground and replace them.”
Arp mayor, Terry Lowry, told residents that they’re working as fast as they can to replace all the old asbestos pipes in the system. In the areas deemed to be the worse, PVC pipes are now in place instead of the aging asbestos pipes. As always, this large municipal project will depend on funding.
“We want it completely gone,” said Lowry. “We’re already filling out paperwork or in the process of filling out paper work to acquire some type of monetary backing.”
A Public Works spokesperson said they plan to replace the five miles of asbestos pipes first, and then will replace the remainder of the system, even if it doesn’t contain asbestos.
Arp city leaders say there is no need to use an alternate water supply and that individuals would have to drink asbestos-tainted water for several years before they were affected.
Arp certainly isn’t alone in its predicament. There are thousands upon thousands of miles of asbestos pipe in towns throughout the United States and deterioration is a common problem.
Asbestos pipe was widely used for decades and while experts claim that a little asbestos in one’s drinking water isn’t a problem, the pipe represented a health hazard for those who worked with it on a regular basis, either manufacturing it or installing it.
Those individuals became prime candidates for developing mesothelioma, deadly asbestos-caused cancer that claims about 2,500 lives each year in the U.S.