Asbestos Cleanup in Montana Highly Delayed

by Sokolove Law

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is facing some fire for multiple years of delays for the risk studies needed to steer the cleanup of asbestos-plagued Libby, Mont.

A local vermiculate mine (that also contained asbestos) has caused sickness and suffering in and around Libby. Hundreds of people have died or become ill from asbestos exposure. Many more deaths are expected for decades to come. In 2009, the area, which is 50 miles from the Canadian border, was declared a health emergency.

Now, according to the Associated Press, the EPA’s Office of Inspector General said that the studies are needed to tell if the $447 million cleanup in the town is actually working. Under pressure from the Inspector General’s Office and some members of Congress, the EPA said in 2007 that the studies would be completed by 2010. The studies are now expected to be finished in 2014.

In a recent report, the Inspector General attributed the delays to “competing priorities within the agency contracting problems and unanticipated work that came up as the process unfolded,” according to the AP.

The EPA regional administrator countered by saying the risk and toxicity studies are complex and need to be handled thoroughly. About 1,700 homes and commercial properties have been cleaned up, he said. Additionally, 1.2 tons of contaminated soil has been removed.

As this blog noted, the project hit a key milestone in February after a science board backed EPA draft reports of the study that stated even “miniscule” amounts of asbestos cause lung scarring. The science board said the EPA was correct in using lung-scarring to determine asbestos risk.

Moreover, the spread of asbestos from the mine goes far beyond Libby: the local vermiculite touched regions all over the country. Known by the brand name “Zonolite,” the asbestos-contaminated material was used in millions of homes as insulation until about 1990, when the mine was shuttered. Additionally, at least 100 Libby asbestos victims will receive portions of the multi-million dollar settlement package by the end of April, as noted in this blog.

If you or a loved one has been exposed to asbestos and developed an asbestos cancer such as mesothelioma, you may be eligible for financial compensation. An asbestos lawsuit can provide you and your family with funds for medical bills and other necessities. Call Sokolove Law today for a free case evaluation.

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