BY GABE LICHT
DELANO, MN While crews were working on the infrastructure improvement project in Delano, they discovered about 1,200 feet of cement pipe that contained asbestos fibers on Buffalo Street.
Members of the Delano Water, Light, and Power Commission, which operates Delano Municipal Utilities, met Wednesday evening with DMU officials to discuss the situation.
“The city of Delano has some of this pipe called Transite, it’s a trade name,” DMU General Manager Paul Twite said. “We don’t know how much, but it was a very common material in the 1950s and ‘60s. As we discover it in our water distribution system, as we tear up streets, we are removing it and replacing it with material that meets current health standards.”
Assistant City Engineer Shawn Louwagie said the pipe was analyzed, and that 20 percent of the material in the pipe contained asbestos.
Councilwoman Betsy Stolfa, who serves on the commission, asked why Transite does not require a more aggressive approach.
“If the pipe is not damaged, it poses no risk,” Louwagie said. “If the pipe is damaged, you have two options. You can repair it if it’s repairable, or remove and replace it. This section of pipe we encountered, we’re doing the latter, which we would do with any other kind of old water pipe in that area.”
Twite said tests confirm the water is safe to drink.
“It falls within very tight parameters the department of health sets,” Twite said. “We test daily, weekly, quarterly, and annually.”
Foreman Jim Griebel added that the Minnesota Department of Health conducts some tests independent of DMU.
Louwagie explained the process used to remove and dispose of Transite pipe.
“They have to remove the piece of Transite pipe, the whole piece, they take the pieces and load them into a dumpster that’s lined, and they take that lined dumpster to a special waste landfill.”
Twite added that the pipe cannot be cut with a gas-powered cutoff saw because it could cause asbestos fibers to go airborne.
Hjerpe Contracting, which is carrying out the project, has dealt with Transite pipe before, Louwagie said, as have other contractors throughout the country.
“I wouldn’t say this is common, but it’s nationwide where this asbestos pipe (is found), they remove and replace it just like we are doing now,” Louwagie said.
Twite said there is no documentation showing where Transite pipe is located in the city, and DMU staff cannot use cameras to inspect water pipes as they do for sewer pipes.
Chair Jonathan Ness asked if the commission should take any action.
“I don’t know that there’s any action we can take moving forward other than acknowledge the process happening in the field is pretty efficient,” Twite said.
Regarding complaints about water quality, Twite said there have not been many recently.
Stolfa encouraged anyone with questions, concerns, or complaints to contact DMU at (763) 972-0557.
“If somebody has a complaint about smell, taste, etc., don’t complain on Community Posts (on Facebook); that’s not doing any good,” Stolfa said. “Call us. We’re more than happy to help.”