Drinking Water Contaminants- Asbestos


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What happens to Asbestos when it is released to the environment?

As a naturally occurring substance, asbestos can be present in surface and ground water. Small fibers may be carried long distances by water currents before settling. Asbestos fibers do not bind to soils, but nevertheless do NT migrate to ground water through soils. Asbestos is not expected to accumulate in aquatic life.

How will Asbestos be detected in and removed from my drinking water?

The regulation for asbestos became effective in 1992. Between 1993 and 1995, EPA required your water supplier to collect water samples once and analyze them to find out if asbestos is present above 7 M.L.. If it is present above this level, the system must continue to monitor this contaminant once every 3 months.

If contaminant levels are found to be consistently above the MCL, your water supplier must take steps to reduce the amount of asbestos so that it is consistently below that level. The following treatment methods have been approved by EPA for removing asbestos: Coagulation/Filtration, Direct and Diatomite Filtration, Corrosion Control.

How will I know if Asbestos is in my drinking water?

If the levels of asbestos exceed the MCL, the system must notify the public via newspapers, radio, TV and other means. Additional actions, such as providing alternative drinking water supplies, may be required to prevent serious risks to public health.

This is a factsheet about a chemical that may be found in some public or private drinking water supplies. It may cause health problems if found in amounts greater than the health standard set by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Drinking Water Standards:

MCLG: 7 M.L. (million fibers per liter)

MCL: 7 M.L.

Asbestos Releases to Water and Land, 1987 to 1993 (in pounds):


Top Five States*

Major Industries*
Asbestos products3,0052,510,227
Alkalis, chlorine1,9732,256,404
Industrial organic chems01,230,000
Asphalt felts, coatings5871,067
Auto parts0563,694
Petroleum refining0314,560
Plastic pipes0235,200
Shipbuilding, repairing0211,400

* Water/Land totals only include facilities with releases greater than a certain amount - usually 1000 to 10,000 lbs.

As part of the Drinking Water and Health pages, this fact sheet is part of a larger U.S. EPA publication:
EPA National Primary Drinking Water Regulations

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