LIVINGSTON -- A city infamous for its brown, rancid tap water is in the midst of improving the quality by replacing decades-old pipelines that deliver water from city wells to residential, commercial and industrial users.
The city is in the second phase of an improvement plan, having replaced about a third of the problematic water distribution lines slated to be swapped out, said City Manager Jose Antonio Ramirez.
The project comprises three phases.
Livingston recently got back bids to replace another third of the pipelines, and the low-bidder will be brought before the City Council at its May 1 meeting, he said.
Replacing old cast iron and asbestos pipes should bring noticeable benefits.
"This is going to assist us in building our water distribution system," Ramirez said, adding that the result will be higher pressure and purer water once the cast iron and asbestos pipes are replaced.
"There should be cleaner water," he said. "Of course, you're not going to eliminate (the trouble) completely until you replace all of the water lines."
The new lines will be made of PVC.
The second phase of the project will cost about $1.3 million and come from the city's water enterprise fund, said City Engineer Nanda Gottiparthy, who hopes that the third and final phase of the project will happen in less than five years.
On average, water pipelines in Livingston are about 70 years old, he said. Most of the brown water is caused by rust and scaling in the pipes, and the rotten-egg smell some residents have complained about has to do with how the water is chlorinated, but that problem's been fixed.
There was never any danger from having asbestos pipes, Ramirez said.
"Asbestos is not a problem unless you disturb it," he said. "There are no health issues with using asbestos pipes to run water, otherwise, the California Department of Public Health would have never let us use those lines, or they would've made us pull them out."
Studies show that although asbestos pipes can increase the amount of asbestos fibers in drinking water, they're "short fibers," which are considered more benign than other types of asbestos fibers.
The only danger that could come from the asbestos pipes is if the workers break them apart when removing them, which could release the fibers into the air, Ramirez noted. But special precautions will be taken by removal crews, he assured. Studies also show that there is a greater cancer risk from breathing in asbestos fibers than digesting them.
Councilman Gurpal Samra said that when the second phase of the project is done, the city will have some of the cleanest water in the area.
"This is one of the highest priorities to this council -- water cleanup," he said.
Phase one took care of the "worst of the worst" pipes, phase two will address other problem lines and the final phase will replace the pipes that are of least concern, Samra said.
New filtration systems on city wells will reduce contaminants in the water, such as arsenic and 1,2,3-trichloropropane.
Reporter Mike North can be reached at (209) 385-2453 or firstname.lastname@example.org.