Asbestos monitoring and regulation in public drinking-water supplies: A case history from North Carolina
Published:January 01, 1998
Jeffrey C. Reid, Robert H. Carpenter, 1998. "Asbestos monitoring and regulation in public drinking-water supplies: A case history from North Carolina", A Paradox of Power, Charles W. Welby, Monica E. Gowan
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Vulnerability assessments of the potential for asbestos contamination in public water supplies provide a basis for states to grant waivers from compliance monitoring requirements of public water supply systems if they can demonstrate they are not vulnerable under final U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rulings published in the Federal Register.
Land area of geologic units of North Carolina as represented on the 1:500,000-scale state geologic map in digital format and published geologic maps provide the technical basis for waivers for compliance monitoring and associated expensive analytical laboratory testing. These data show that only 3.68% of North Carolina’s land area of 18,790 square km (48,666 square mi) is underlain by rocks that are potentially hosts for asbestiform minerals. We assumed the EPA would follow the initiative of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and remove nonasbestiform anthophyllite, tremolite, and actinolite from inclusion in the definition of asbestos. We concluded that the portion of North Carolina likely to contain any chrysotile asbestos would be reduced to 0.77% of land area. Ultramafic rocks that have a higher probability of chrysotile occurrences comprise only 0.07%, or 33.8 square mi of land surface in North Carolina.
With additional investigation to delineate watersheds in which chrysotile susceptible rocks occur, the regulatory agency exempted 73 of North Carolina’s 100 counties from asbestos testing of surface water supply intakes. Sixty-eight percent (3,493) of the state’s surface water supply intakes were exempted from unnecessary testing, saving taxpayers at least $368,000; this is about one-third of the North Carolina Geological Survey’s annual appropriated budget. Author staff time to perform the work leading to the conclusion was about two person-weeks at a taxpayer cost of about $2,000.
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A Paradox of Power
The 13 papers in this volume illustrate issues and opportunities confronting geologists as they bring their knowledge and understanding to bear in matters related to public health and welfare. Public decisions and decision-making processes in the face of geologic complexity and uncertainty are the subject of the first group of papers. In the second group, several “voice of warning” papers illustrate the use of geologic knowledge and research to warn the public of health hazards derived from geologic materials and processes. A third group of papers, in the “voice of reason” section, describes use of geologic knowledge to help lower the costs of mitigation and avoidance of geologic hazards. Finally, ethical and philosophical questions confronting geoscientists are discussed and issues of “truth” as related to the legal process and questions about the adequacy of information in making decisions about long-term radioactive waste disposal are discussed.