Asbestos cleanup disaster finally declared in Libby, Montana

W.R.Grace mine near Libby, Montana

A northwest Montana town where asbestos contamination has killed more than 200 people will get more than $130 million in cleanup and medical assistance from the Obama administration, the Environmental Protection Agency has announced.

The declaration is the first issued by the agency, which has grappled with the “toxic legacy” of a mine outside Libby, Montana, since 1999, Administrator Lisa Jackson said.

“Grappled with the toxic legacy” means they got little or no assistance from the politicians elected to serve the people.

The town was heavily contaminated with asbestos-laced dust that federal prosecutors said resulted in more than 200 deaths and 1,000 illnesses…

Not only did dust from the mine spread all over Libby and the neighboring town of Troy for decades, but tailings from the facility also were used as fill for driveways, gardens and playgrounds, she said…

The Libby operation began producing vermiculite — a mineral often used in insulation — in 1919. Dust from the plant covered patches of grass, dusted the tops of cars and drifted through the air in a hazy smoke that became a part of residents’ daily lives.

But the product was contaminated with tremolite asbestos, a particularly toxic substance that has been linked to mesothelioma, a cancer that can attack the lining of the lungs, abdomen, or heart.

Asbestos-based manufacturers have always been big-hearted about providing fill. Raybestos-Manhattan provided fill for the softball field at a middle school in my old home town. Then declared bankruptcy to avoid responsibility for all the asbestos-related lawsuits that finally were recognized by the courts in recent years.

My niece’s name is on one of those lawsuits. She died of cancer before she was thirty. She was a hell of a softball player.

2 thoughts on “Asbestos cleanup disaster finally declared in Libby, Montana

  1. Mike says:

    The Montana Standard has published a two-part series on the continuing saga of suffering in Libby, Montana, which was doused every day for more than six decades with tons of asbestos-laden dust from a nearby vermiculite mine.
    Part one: “In Libby, as the asbestos cleanup gets done, the dying continues” Sept 30)
    Part two: “Libby clinic besieged by lawsuits, document requests as it cares for asbestos-stricken patients” (Oct 1)
    Libby is the center of asbestos-related disease in this country but even as the struggle continues in Lincoln County, Montana, which has the nation’s highest asbestos mortality rate, the Environmental Protection Agency has loosened its regulation of new uses of the deadly mineral nationwide.

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