All you Need to Know About Asbestos Water Tanks

All you Need to Know About Asbestos Water Tanks
All you Need to Know About Asbestos Water Tanks

Asbestos – a very popular construction material back in the day –was used for the most part of the 20th century in many parts of the world, including the UK, for the construction of many residential and commercial buildings. It was used as reinforcement for cement, adhesives, insulating materials, corrugated roofing materials and much more including Asbestos Water Tanks.

Many of the water tanks you find from buildings of that era are likely to have used asbestos in construction. The reason for this was asbestos had many qualities due to its fibrous nature. It was considered to be a superior construction material. This blog will tell you more about what asbestos is and what to do with asbestos water tanks that you find in your homes.

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Properties and Characteristics of Asbestos and ACMs

Asbestos is an inert and fibrous material, meaning it doesn’t react with its surroundings. The construction industry finds that this property worked best for them back in the day, before its consequential health risks were discovered. Asbestos was water resistant as well as flame resistant. It’s no wonder that it was used in construction including asbestos cement reinforced asbestos water tanks.

Both fibrous and non-fibrous forms of the mineral can be found in the same deposits. A possible explanation might be that the rocks from which asbestos is mined may not have received a uniform amount of heat and pressure – prerequisites for the transformation of the fibrous asbestos.

There are many physical properties of asbestos that make it a cut above the average construction materials. It has tensile strength that is more than that of steel. It is a thermally stable mineral with fire and heat resistant properties. It is also resistant to electricity and effectively binds to other insulating materials to become a sort of ideal construction material. The thermal resistance and strength are the main factors behind using asbestos is asbestos water tanks in the past.

Asbestos fibres have no odour or taste and the chemical composition allows many different forms of asbestos to have different colours –green, blue and even lavender. The green colour is owed to the presence of iron in the mineral.

Since there is no odour or taste of asbestos fibres and they are very minute in size, the asbestos fibres may seep into the water from asbestos water tanks. If that water is used for drinking or washing clothes, asbestos fibres may go into the digestive system, causing problems and getting lodged in the clothing. The fibres themselves are very strong and flexible, meaning that they can be spun into a material that has electrical, flame and heat resistant properties for construction.

Health Risks Posed by Asbestos and Those Affected
Health Risks Posed by Asbestos and Those Affected
Health Risks Posed by Asbestos and Those Affected

Unfortunately, despite the widespread use of the material in the 20th century around the world, asbestos has many dangers associated with it. The most notable of these dangers are health risks posed by asbestos fibres if they are released into the air. As mentioned earlier, they may get into the digestive tract through water from asbestos water tanks and wreak havoc inside. John Gummer was perhaps the first one to speak up against the dangers of asbestos.

In July 1983, he spoke up in parliament while he was Under-Secretary of State for Employment in the UK. He said that even one fibre of asbestos is capable of posing great damage to the human body — the effects of which may not be seen for at least 2 decades.What he was implying was that people that had the most risk of asbestos related diseases were the people who had the most exposure to the substance.

Health Problems Caused by Asbestos Fibres
Health Problems Caused by Asbestos Water Tanks
Health Problems Caused by Asbestos Water Tanks

Asbestos containing materials — that contain friable or non-friable asbestos — are very dangerous if disturbed, damaged, or when they become weathered with age. These situations make them release the fibres that can cause a number of diseases such as mesothelioma, lung cancer, asbestosis, liver damage, stomach cancer, bladder cancer, urinary tumours, pleural or diaphragm plaque and more. Friable asbestos is more dangerous and may be used in the asbestos insulation board that may be attached to an asbestos water tank. If this is the case, it is even more difficult to remove

They can enter the digestive or even the respiratory tract to cause the diseases mentioned above because of their non-reactive nature. They just deposit on the surface of the body’s organs and start to cause problems. Unless otherwise disturbed, these asbestos fibres, and not the asbestos itself, causes health problems. The risk from asbestos in the interior of buildings is not that high if they are in good condition, but as the level of damage and weathering increases, the risk becomes greater. If your asbestos water tank in the loft has started to flake and crack, you may be exposed to these risks.

Who’s Likely to be Exposed to Asbestos
Who’s Likely to be Exposed to Asbestos
Who’s Likely to be Exposed to Asbestos

Some of the earliest people to have been afflicted with asbestos diseases were the miners and millers of crude asbestos as well as those directly involved in making asbestos products such as asbestos cement used in walls and asbestos water tanks or asbestos coatings like artex. They had the greatest exposure to asbestos.

After that were the people involved in the use of asbestos products, like piping fitters, construction workers and so on. Their asbestos exposure is pretty high, but not as much as those who were working directly with asbestos during mining and milling or even construction. People next in line to be affected were electricians, carpenters, plumbers and other tradesmen who were exposed to asbestos containing materials at their jobs. Additionally, even their family members and relatives were exposed to asbestos indirectly through the work clothes contaminated with this level 1 carcinogenic material.

Where is Asbestos Found?

Most of the public buildings from the 1960s era, including schools and other buildings, do contain asbestos. Asbestos can be found in any walls that have been constructed with asbestos cement, pipe lagging, in lofts, wall cavities, ceilings, fire doors, asbestos water tanks, Asbestos Garage Roofs and boilers. All buildings in Britain made before the 1980s, according to an industry expert, are most likely to contain asbestos in some way, shape or form. Any building more than approximately 30-years-old can contain asbestos.

Asbestos Water Tanks

Asbestos water tanks in the loft are common in older buildings. They are likely to have been constructed with asbestos if they were in houses that were constructed before 2000. These are often ghastly to look at if they are not maintained properly. Disturbed fibres from the water tank — from any drilling or piping done to it — can cause fibres to be disturbed and released into the air. Since the most common places where they are installed are indoors, such as inside lofts, they pose a serious threat to the health of the house occupants if disturbed or damaged.

They’re usually constructed with cement and the cement that is used most likely contains asbestos. Asbestos water tanks usually have around 5-10% asbestos content, but that is relatively safe as it is non-friable. This means that asbestos fibres in the water tank are tightly bound together with cement and cannot be easily crushed by hand. If it’s placed in the loft, there is not much to worry about as it is away from sunlight and weathering effects of the elements – in such a situation it’s likely to be in a very good condition.

If you use water from an asbestos water tank, then you might want to reconsider.

Removing Asbestos Water Tanks: The Best Option

If you find that recent construction or additions to asbestos water tank such as a pipe has left some residue after construction, know that there is serious risk involved. The residue can spread to the rest of the house, get lodged in the occupant’s lungs or digestive tract, and become a health concern.You need to get it professionally removal as you may be making the situation worse by removing it yourself.

The risks associated with asbestos containing materials alone is enough to drive anyone crazy. If you’re extra cautious, you may want to remove the water tank itself. But be warned; doing this task yourself or hiring any traditional unlicensed plumber to remove asbestos is a risk that you don’t want to take. Asbestos will be disturbed in the process without you even realizing it. The tank may have been better off left the way it was, before you got it removed unprofessionally, leaving the asbestos containing material exposed.

Before having the removal done, it is important to get the area and the asbestos water tank inspected for any disturbed asbestos containing materials. Just to be sure of the condition of the interior surroundings, air testing and a survey need to be carried out. This is to evaluate just how much of a threat the asbestos from your asbestos water tank or other asbestos containing materials from the loft is.

After ascertaining the risk, it is best to have an asbestos removal company do the job. Although they don’t have to be licensed in doing so, a license is another huge plus for your peace of mind. It may cost more but you’ll know that the asbestos removal is being done properly – all the rules and regulations put in place by the HSE and other organisations are being followed. The company will make sure that asbestos is safely disposed of in hazardous waste sites that are designated for asbestos disposal and containment.

Proper training has to be done in any case for the removal company employees to be able to remove asbestos properly. If they’re untrained professionals, they may mess it up further. You’ll be much more satisfied if the trained license company removes and disposes of it properly, using the right procedures.

Speaking of procedures, the asbestos removal company will be able to assess what is better for your home; removal or encapsulation. Encapsulation is when the tank is sealed with a special coat of paint that will greatly reduce the threat of fibres spreading throughout the rest of your house from the asbestos water tank. They will do it properly so that the risks are minimised.

Removing Asbestos Water Tanks: The RightWay
Removing Asbestos Water Tanks: The RightWay
Removing Asbestos Water Tanks: The RightWay

It is still urged to get proper removal done by a licensed company to minimise the risks post-removal. You can opt to remove it yourself, but you would need all the safety equipment and gear, not to mention the training involved with removing or even encapsulating asbestos. If you’ve still decided to do it yourself, after all, words of caution, you need to have at least proper training done for removing the asbestos containing material.

Safety precautions and equipment
Safety precautions and equipment
Safety precautions and equipment

The safety equipment involves type 5 disposable to protect you from unnecessary asbestos exposure. Rubber disposable gloves and non-laced boots, protective goggles, ear defenders, and a respiratory FFP3 face mask designated for use with asbestos removal. Getting a larger coverall size (plus one to your size is important. It shouldn’t be a perfect fit for fear of things getting too hot and stuffy inside the suit. The mask and coveralls should not be used again.Dispose of them in an asbestos waste bag after the job is complete.If the water tank is placed higher, take precautions to not fall and don’t drop any cement that is removed on the ground since that will release the fibres within.

For asbestos water tank removal from a loft area, you need to cover the area properly with plastic sheets. These pieces of plastic sheets should serve as a warning that you’re working on asbestos removal in the area. The sheet will also help to keep any loft insulation safe from contamination. Also check if there is an asbestos insulating board any asbestos containing material, which the asbestos water tank is attached to.

Asbestos Insulating Boards: If there is an asbestos insulating board placed underneath the tank for support, you will need to have shadow vacuuming done by holding the nozzle of a class H vacuum cleaner near to the board, which the tank is placed on, as it is removed. Any damaged surface should be done properly by removing any small or loose pieces of the insulation board. After that, clean it up using a damp rag to prevent fibres from going all over the place. Gently paint over the area. It is highly recommended to follow other guidelines present in the HSE guides to make sure nothing goes wrong.

Removal: Is the Asbestos Water Tank Intact or Not?
Removal: Is the Asbestos Water Tank Intact or Not?
Removal: Is the Asbestos Water Tank Intact or Not?

To start off, reinforce any damaged areas of the water tank with duct tape. Next, remove the fittings and plumbing from the tanks and then unscrew the screws and bolts from the support of the water tank. Put those screws in the asbestos waste bag that you have on hand. Have a 1000-gauge polythene sheeting to wrap the water tank in two layers so that none of the fibres can escape. Put some asbestos warning stickers to indicate that the water tank is now a hazard. Carefully lower it and place it on the ground. This method is for intact removal of the water tank.

1000-gauge polythene sheet
1000-gauge polythene sheet

For the breaking up and removal, the procedure is mostly the same, except you have to dampen the product itself and wrap it up in two layers of a 1000-gauge polythene sheet. Then you have to break those pieces up carefully with a hammer while they’re inside the polythene sheets. Lower them one by one onto the ground and wrap individual larger parts with 1000-gauge polythene sheets again and seal the sheets with duct tape. Place these larger pieces in the asbestos waste bag.
Make sure that the cleaning up is done properly and is in line with the CAR 2012 regulations and any other pertinent regulations that have been imposed by the HSE and other relevant authorities.

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