$3.3m to replace Temuka pipeline
A 9.1 kilometre cement trunk line at the centre of an asbestos scare in Temuka will be replaced by Easter at a cost of $3.3 million, the Timaru District Council has decided.
Mayor Damon Odey suggested during an extraordinary council meeting on Friday the replacement of the pipeline could be a blueprint for other councils, which would soon have to face the question of what to do with their asbestos pipes. He said he would recommend Local Government New Zealand used Temuka as a case study.
‘‘Drinking water standards and suitability is a major topic,’’ Odey said.
‘‘We need to provide some of our findings to the whole water sector.’’
Radio New Zealand reported in 2016 it would cost $2.2 billion to replace all asbestos pipes in the country in the next 20 to 30 years.
Asbestos pipes were put in throughout the Timaru District until about 1990, and the piece of pipeline found to be responsible for asbestos circulating in Temuka’s water supply dated from 1964.
Councillors voted unanimously to replace the original 9.1km pipeline with larger diameter high density polyethylene pipes.
Replacing the pipeline became a matter of urgency last year after asbestos began seeping into the water due to a pipe degrading, with a temporary filtration plant installed to control the issue in mid-December.
On Friday councillors questioned whether some financial liability should be borne by engineering firm Opus International, which assessed the pipeline in 2015.
Odey said it was of concern Opus had said the pipeline could last for two decades, and he hoped other councils around the country would not find themselves in the same boat.
Councillor Kerry Stevens asked whether Opus could be asked to contribute to the council’s costs.
However infrastructure group manager Ashley Harper said he believed there was nothing wrong with the work Opus had done for the council. His initial reaction to its work was that it was ‘‘very comprehensive’’ and the problem was the council’s own processes.
‘‘The bigger issue is are we sampling sufficiently?’’ he said.
There was only one sample taken in 2015 from the main trunk line, following work on the Orari to Winchester pipe, and it was difficult to sample from a main pipeline which was always in use, Harper said.
Councillor Steve Wills also suggested if it was the Government which decided asbestos pipes should be used in the 1960s, it should bear the cost.
However Harper said all indications so far were that decisions to lay the asbestos cement pipes in previous decades were made by the councils of the time.
‘‘My understanding would be that the decision-making was all locally-based,’’ Harper said.
Harper said the line - which would provide greater hydraulic storage and capacity to the town - would hopefully be replaced by Easter.
Water New Zealand technical manager Noel Roberts said he was unaware of other councils having the same problem, but the rest of the country was watching Temuka with interest.
He understood a certain type of groundwater was making the pipe dissolve quickly, he said.
Comment has been sought from Opus International about the cause of the pipeline’s degradation.
Councillors agreed on Friday the cost of replacing the Temuka line would be funded through the council’s water depreciation fund and by money designated to the $2.28m Temuka reservoir project.
Councillor Paddy O’Reilly said he was concerned about the fiveyear delay of the Temuka reservoir, originally planned for this year. The councillors amended the recommendations provided by Harper to make the delay last for an unspecified period of time instead. Discussions about the reservoir will be held during longterm plan deliberations in February.
The councillors also agreed to retrospectively approve the cost of the emergency response, estimated to be about $200,000.
Harper supported Stevens’ suggestion that studies could be done on the old asbestos line, which would remain in the ground. ‘‘It’s a learning situation for all of us,’’ he said.