After 17 Years, Libby Asbestos Cleanup is Almost Complete

Earlier this month, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that after almost 17 years, the asbestos cleanup project in Libby, Montana is nearly complete.

Libby, Montana asbestos

On February 8, the EPA announced that in connection with the state of Montana, the final cleanup work in Libby, Montana, a town associated with some of the highest rates of asbestos-related deaths and illnesses ever, is being scheduled with a projected finish date within two to three years. According to health officials, the Libby asbestos mines is more than likely responsible for at least 400 asbestos-related deaths and more than 3,000 asbestos-related injuries.

So far, cleaning up the site has costed more than $540 million, and by the time the project is finished, it’s estimated that another $64 million will be spent. Per the manager of the Lincoln County Asbestos Resources Program, Nick Raines,

“There’s not a lot of ground-breaking news in it, but it is a fairly big milestone for both the EPA, and I think the community here. I think it’s the first big step in wrapping things up in Libby as far as the asbestos Superfund program goes.”

Once the project is finished, the EPA is scheduled to develop a plan to control the Amphibole asbestos that might still be around in Libby following the cleanup. The old vermiculite mine, as well as the forested areas that contain asbestos, will be dealt with as well, but under a different scheduled project.

During the final plan, the EPA will continue replacing soil that’s contaminated with asbestos with clean soil. The organization will also continue to properly dispose of any remaining products found inside any building that still stands in the area. Additionally, they’ll create a detailed plan to ensure that residents remain as safe as possible.

Last year, an EPA risk assessment noted that despite the high price of cleanup costs, which included 2,300 properties in Libby and in the nearby town of Troy, the risk of asbestos exposure has decreased significantly in the area.

Libby and Asbestos History

Asbestos pollution in Libby can be traced all the way back to 1919, when several companies started pulling vermiculite asbestos out of the town’s mines. Vermiculite was once a popular type of asbestos used in a myriad of construction materials. This type of mining went on for decades, which left not only the mine workers exposed to asbestos, but also the residents of Libby who had nothing to do with the mines.

In 1963, W.R. Grace & Co. took over the mining operations in Libby, and although the company knew that asbestos was dangerous to both workers and anyone else exposed to it, they didn’t bother warning the public. This ensured that the mining could continue to bring the company profits. In turn, hundreds of people began dying and even more injured by asbestos.

The usually high amount of deaths in Libby caught the attention of the national media in the 1990s. Once the EPA learned about it, the organization stepped in and in 2002, Libby was named as a Superfund site designation. Since then more than 1,500 businesses and homes have been cleaned up, and more than 950,000 cubic yards of hazardous materials have been removed.

Help and Resources for Asbestos Victims

If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with mesothelioma or asbestos-related lung cancer, you may be eligible for substantial compensation. There is currently over $30 billion in asbestos trust funds, set up for those who are victims to asbestos-related diseases. Use our free Asbestos Attorney Locator Tool today to find a leading mesothelioma attorney in your area.

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Photo Source: US EPA Environmental-Protection-Agency (Downtown Libby, Montana – date unknown) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons