Asbestos-Cement Water Pipes

Medicine Hat's water meets and exceeds all provincial and national standards for safe, clean drinking water, both at the Water Treatment Plant and through the distribution network carrying treated water to your home or business. 

Residents who may be concerned about asbestos-cement (A-C) water pipes, and the possibility of asbestos fibers in their drinking water, may find the following information helpful.

Test results

The City of Medicine Hat collected six water samples on April 11, 2023 and sent them to ALS Laboratory Group in Cincinnati, Ohio for testing.

The results show there are no detectable levels of asbestos in Medicine Hat's drinking water.

View the test results

Does Medicine Hat have asbestos-cement (A-C) water pipe? 

Yes. At the end of 2022, about 32% or 139,511 linear metres of Medicine Hat's underground water pipes are made of asbestos-cement (A-C). 

The majority of the water system is polyvinyl chloride (PVC), and some pipes are cast-iron, steel or concrete-pressure.

Do we test for asbestos in the water system? 

No. Health Canada has not established a maximum acceptable concentration (MAC) for asbestos in drinking water.

The City of Medicine Hat tests according to the regulations set forth by Health Canada, Alberta Health, our approval to operate a waterworks system through the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act under Alberta Environment and Protected Areas, and best practices outlined by the Canadian Water and Wastewater Association.

The City of Medicine Hat is prepared to adjust if and when any of these regulations should change, to continue compliance for water safety standards.

Does Medicine Hat still install asbestos-concrete (A-C) pipe? 

No. A-C pipe is no longer manufactured and has not been installed in Canadian municipal water systems for decades. In 2015, A-C pipe was removed from the National Building Code.

Asbestos-cement pipe was first used in Medicine Hat’s water system in 1960, with the majority of A-C pipe installed in the early 1970’s. The last asbestos cement pipe in Medicine Hat was installed in 1981, after polyvinyl chloride (PVC) pipe became the dominant material in the industry.

Will A-C pipes be removed? 

There is no regulatory direction to remove A-C pipes from municipal water networks in Canada. However, since the material is no longer in production, A-C pipe is replaced though ongoing annual asset management to replace aging infrastructure and the amount of A-C pipe decreases year after year.

It is generally accepted practice in Medicine Hat that A-C pipe be removed and replaced during any construction that exposes such pipe.

Are there asbestos fibres in my drinking water? 

The Canadian Water and Wastewater Association maintains that there is no evidence of any significant amounts of asbestos fibers entering water systems from leaching or deterioration of A-C pipes. 

Asbestos is a natural occurring fibre and may be released into drinking water sources from runoff of mining tailings, improperly disposed contaminated household wastes, and stream and groundwater contact with asbestos-bearing bedrock.

Is my health at risk? 

It is well-documented that adverse health effects from asbestos are associated primarily with inhalation of fibers, however, Health Canada and the World Health Organization have concluded that there is no consistent, convincing evidence that asbestos ingested through water is harmful to your health.

The City relies on Health Canada's Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality and the City's approval to operate a waterworks system through Alberta Environment and Protected Areas to inform decisions relating to water safety and A-C pipes.

Read more about what Health Canada has to say about asbestos cement pipes and asbestos fibres in drinking water.

Are workers safe when removing A-C pipe? 
Yes. Though there are known risks with airborne asbestos, crews are trained to take all necessary precautions and wear personal protective equipment to eliminate the risk of inhaling airborne asbestos fibres when cutting and working with A-C pipe.
How can I find out about water quality in Medicine Hat?
This chart provides detailed data about how we treat water in Medicine Hat and the regulated materials in your drinking water. 

View the presentation on asbestos-cement water mains that was provided at the April 6, 2023 Energy and Infrastructure Committee meeting.

Asbestos Cement Water Mains Presentation