Libby is a relatively small city in Montana that, despite its modest population of 2,688 inhabitants, is a focal point of the nation’s problems with asbestos. It is the seat of Lincoln County and it was once a major logging and mining community. Most of the mining operations, including those owned by asbestos producer W.R. Grace, have shut down and been replaced by tourism. Nevertheless, the many decades of asbestos mining have left their mark on Libby and its population.
If you or someone you love suffers from mesothelioma, asbestos-related lung cancer, or asbestosis, you may qualify for significant compensation. Fill out our form to get a free Financial Compensation Packet. You’ll learn about the top mesothelioma lawyers in Libby, how to get paid in 90 days, how to file a claim for the asbestos trust funds, and more.
Libby, Vermiculite, and the Asbestos Disaster
Libby is located in the northwestern part of Montana not far from the Kootenai River Valley and the Kootenai National Forest. Because it lies near the Rocky Mountains, Libby was considered ideal for the mining industry. Likewise, the vast forests in the area made Libby a major hub for logging.
Starting in the 19th Century, various mining companies, including W.R. Grace, extracted tons of minerals in the area around Libby. The biggest of these operations was a vermiculite mine owned by the Zonolite company, and, after 1963, by W.R. Grace. At its peak period of operations in the middle of the 20th Century, the Libby mine produced 2 million tons of ore each year and hired an average of 200 miners per annum.
Unfortunately, this vermiculite, which Grace sold under the name Zonolite, was contaminated with asbestos. Since vermiculite was shipped from Libby to the rest of the U.S., tainted Zonolite was used on a nationwide basis. Per government estimates, Libby’s mines may have produced 80% of the world’s vermiculite supply until W.R. Grace ceased operating there in 1990. This is one of the reasons why asbestos-related illnesses, including mesothelioma, are diagnosed even in states or cities where there are no asbestos mines.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Libby is designated as a Superfund cleanup site because asbestos fibers from the mines have been found in various locations around the city. Since 2002, the EPA has been conducting a massive cleanup effort, but between 1,200 to 1,400 residential and business properties still show signs of asbestos contamination from the now-closed vermiculite mines.
This massive environmental disaster has exacted a huge toll on Libby’s population. Per published EPA estimates, 400 persons have died from asbestosis, lung cancer, or mesothelioma since the government began recording statistics about asbestos issues. In addition, 1,750 individuals have gotten sick due to asbestos exposure. Since asbestos-related illnesses can’t be cured, the death toll in Libby is expected to rise.
As of July 2011, the EPA has spent over $370 million since 2000 to clean up the Libby Superfund site. The closed mining facilities have been cleaned of asbestos, but the operations by both Zonolite and its corporate owner W.R. Grace went on for so many years that even the wood chips in logging mills are contaminated. In addition, asbestos-abatement efforts by the EPA, the Montana Department of Environmental Quality, and the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Registry require painstaking sampling and time-intensive lab work.
Getting Legal Assistance in Libby
Remember, if you’ve been diagnosed with mesothelioma, asbestos-related lung cancer, or asbestosis, you may qualify for significant compensation. Get our free Financial Compensation Packet for information on the top mesothelioma and asbestos lawyers in your area. For questions and assistance, feel free to contact us at 800-793-4540.