Asbestos cannot contaminate home supply - NI Water

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NI Water has moved to reassure people on a Derry housing estate that cracked water pipes resulting from gully works cannot lead to asbestos contaminating the water system.

Some residents from Lettershandoney contacted the ‘Journal’ this week to raise concerns over the works, which have been going on in the estate for several weeks, reducing traffic to one lane on the main entry and exit route.

Residents complained that a few weeks ago electricity was knocked off in part of the area, while the household water supply has also been affected twice in the past week as a direct result of the works.

They also raised concerns over the water supply and the potential for the old pipes which had fractured to contain asbestos.

The Department for Regional Development said that TransportNI is currently undertaking the installation of a new drainage pipeline in the Lettershandoney area to prevent a repeat of flooding problems experienced by residents during previous winters.

A DRD spokeswoman said however that the works had not been without difficulties: “Due to poor ground conditions and the depth of the excavation (up to 2.4m) progress has been slow, due to the need to shore up the sides of the excavation against collapse.

“The presence of an old water main which is very fragile and has fractured on a few occasions has also hampered progress.”

She added: “All of the pipeline is now in place and reinstatement work is on-going. The work should be substantially complete by the end of next week. This scheme will make a significant improvement to the road drainage facilities in the area.”

A spokeswoman for Northern Ireland Water (NIW) confirmed that DRD Roads Service had twice burst a watermain in the Lettershandoney Estate this week.

Speaking about the first episode, she said: “The burst caused some interruption to water supply in the area and for a few hours after water was restored, some customers may have experienced cloudy water. The advice in these circumstances is to run the tap for a period of time until the water runs clear.”

She added: “NI Water is happy to allay fears about asbestos cement pipework and confirm that they do not pose a risk to health for water supply. Even in the event of a burst water main, there is no threat of asbestos to the water supply.

“Only materials approved by the Drinking Water Inspectorate (DWI) can be used for the treatment and distribution of drinking water supplies. NI Water has an extensive water quality monitoring programme which ensures that water supplies are tested 365 days per year. The programme is in accordance with the Drinking Water Regulations and is monitored by the Northern Ireland Drinking Water Inspectorate.

“NI Water is currently providing the best ever quality drinking water to the people of Northern Ireland, and with ongoing investment, will continue to do so.”

Sean Carlin from Lettershandoney & District Development Group said they had raised any concerns taken to them with environmental authorities at council and government level.

He said that part of the problem facing workers on site was that the pipes had been laid in a complex fashion around 50 years ago. He also said that there had been serious drainage problems after heavy rainfall in recent years.