What To Do When You Encounter Transite Pipe

It may not be an everyday occurrence, but you could come across asbestos-cement pipe on a job. Here are details you’ll need to consider.

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“I have a customer who has transite pipe. She told me there is asbestos in it and wonders if I’m authorized to dig it up and dispose of it, pipe burst it, or if I can just line it? I told her I didn’t know and would check. Can I line it? If I dig it up, I know I’ll need an asbestos abatement contractor and it will really drive up her costs.”

The short answer is yes, you can line it or dig it up and dispose of it, but you probably can’t pipe burst it.

Let’s look at the details further.

There is no mandate to dig up and replace asbestos pipe, or any pipe for that matter. If you have sewer pipe that is usable, you can continue to use it and maintain it as needed. If you decide that the pipe is deteriorated enough for a more permanent repair, lining is certainly an option, as is digging it up and replacing it. Here’s the current regulation regarding remediation of transite pipe:

In most states, public agencies are not required to remove and replace asbestos-cement (AC) pipe. Studies have indicated that, in normal use, AC pipe does not pose a threat to public health; however, certain activities — including tapping, cutting, crushing/removing, and disposing — are regulated.

Contrary to common belief, in many states specially licensed contractors are not required when working with AC pipe. Many states have developed programs to train individual employees in safe practices involving the regulated AC pipe practices. These training programs provide an employer exemption for registration requirements. In addition, guidelines have been established for the licensing of course providers in order to extend the available training resources while maintaining consistency in content and message.

The EPA has addressed replacement of AC pipe using the pipe bursting method. In a letter issued July 17, 1991, the EPA stated its position that “the crushing of asbestos-cement pipe with mechanical equipment would cause this material to become ‘regulated asbestos-containing material’” and “… the crushed asbestos-cement pipe in place would cause these locations to be considered active waste disposal sites and therefore subject to the requirements of the Asbestos National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP).”

Furthermore, in this same letter, the EPA goes on to advise that “in order to avoid the creation of a waste disposal site which is subject to the Asbestos NESHAP, the owners or operators of the pipe may want to consider other options for dealing with the abandoned pipe.”

Since the EPA’s letter did not specifically identify pipe bursting, interpretation of the intent was inconsistent throughout the industry.

Since you won’t be opening up the pipe and exposing it to the atmosphere, there isn’t any need to employ an asbestos mitigation contractor to help in the lining process. The regulations regarding pipe bursting are a little less clear.

So what are your options?

If you are going to cut, disturb, disassemble or in any way expose the pipe, you will need to follow the guidelines established for this material. There are other ways to keep you from having to go there.

If a clean-out is available, it is possible to line through the clean-out, leaving the transite pipe unexposed. If you intercept a section of cast iron inside the building, you could line the pipe from the cast iron. If the only option is to intercept the transite pipe, you’ll have to pay a remediation contractor or have one of your employees trained in proper handling of asbestos by a certified trainer. You may want to use caution if you are considering pipe bursting, as you will be creating an active waste disposal site that may violate state and local codes.

About the author
John Heisler is the owner of Pipe Lining Supply and Quik-Lining Systems Inc. He has 20 years of experience in the CIPP lining industry and over 40 years in the underground construction industry.


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