Denver Direct: Denver Water Responds

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Denver Water Responds

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Alleged (friable) cement asbestos pipe photographed at Dry Gulch on Oct. 27, 2009

In response to the recent allegations (here and here) of the dumping of cement asbestos (CA) pipe and other toxic substances at Dry Gulch (12th and Sheridan), Denver Water (DW), our quasi-governmental water agency (Penfield Tate III, President), has issued the following press release:

October 30, 2009 – In response to recent claims that Denver Water 20 years ago dumped hazardous materials and cement-asbestos pipe near 12th Avenue and Sheridan Boulevard:

The area at 12th Avenue and Sheridan is an old landfill and rubbish dump. Old landfills are not uncommon in the metro area and are usually a legacy of solid waste disposal that occurred before environmental regulations were adopted. Development projects often encounter such landfills and must take appropriate measures during construction.

Denver Water takes care to comply with all applicable environmental regulations, and we have no reason to believe the allegations made on Oct. 28 by former employees. Denver Water did not own, operate or have any responsibility for the landfill at 12th and Sheridan. It is possible that Denver Water disposed of solid waste there when the landfill was in operation, but if so, disposal would only have occurred in accordance with regulations current at the time.

Here is some important information about cement-asbestos (CA) pipe:

* Asbestos is dangerous only when it is “friable,” or, according to asbestos-industry experts, can be crumbled, crushed, or reduced to powder by the pressure of a human hand. Unlike asbestos in dry wall and other products, the asbestos in CA pipe is bound up in the cement and is not friable. Even if CA pipe is broken, the asbestos does not become friable. It does not move or cause any problem unless the pipe is damaged by aggressive cutting or sawing.
* Until recently, the standard industry practice when working with CA pipe was to leave it in place underground and to bag any cut pieces. CDPHE now has requirements that CA pipe that is disturbed must be bagged, removed, labeled and sent to a proper disposal site.
* CA pipes are safe for carrying water and have been widely used for that purpose because they are highly resistant to corrosion and deterioration. Almost every major urban utility has such pipe in the ground.
* PVC and newer steel pipe on the market have eliminated the need to use the heavier, more-difficult-to-work-with CA pipe. CA pipe is no longer used for new installations, but existing pipe in place is safe, because the asbestos is bound to the cement and does not present a risk if left undisturbed.


Denver Water proudly serves high-quality water and promotes its efficient use to 1.3 million people in the city of Denver and many surrounding suburbs. Established in 1918, the utility is a public agency funded by water rates, new tap fees and the sale of hydropower, not taxes. It is Colorado’s oldest and largest water utility.

Stacy Chesney
303-628-6584 (office)
720- 232-7214 (cell)
[email protected]