Do City water pipes contain asbestos?

Fact Check

The City of Prince George has approximately 588 kilometres of water main pipes in our water system, around 394 kilometres are AC (asbestos cement) pipe. AC pipes were commonly used in the 50s through to the early 90s. The majority of AC pipe installed in Prince George was during the 60s to 80s when the city saw its boundaries rapidly expand (with growth peaking in 1975). Prince George eventually grew to include Blackburn, College Heights and the areas north of the Nechako River.  While the City has not used AC pipe for over 40 years we still have them throughout our water system.

The City of Prince George operates our potable water systems in compliance with Health Canada, Northern Health, and provincial and federal water regulations. Our distribution system meets or exceeds all requirements for delivering safe and clean potable water to our residents. Furthermore, Health Canada and the World Health Organization have concluded that there is no consistent, convincing evidence asbestos fibres in drinking water is harmful to health. Health Canada has not set any maximum contaminant levels for asbestos in water and the City does not currently test for it.

The greatest threat to fibers entering the water system is when the pipe is cut during a repair or removal. As a result, municipal utilities follow strict procedures to mitigate or eliminate the release of fibers. Utility workers are at the greatest risk from the airborne dust and, therefore, must wear appropriate  personal protective equipment when cutting into AC pipe. The City of Prince George has seen very few AC water main breaks over the years and recorded just four in 2022. The City has seen an increase in budgets for water main replacement/renewal over the past decade and continues to work to replace our aging infrastructure when opportunities and funding allow.