LIBBY – After nearly two decades of contamination and concern, Libby is entering the home stretch of cleanup for asbestos contamination with the last properties being finished in the next few weeks.
Contractors are working at the last 31 properties in Libby and Troy, cleaning up contamination left by decades of operations at the former W.R. Grace Mine. That vermiculite mining contaminated the entire community before the problems were discovered in the 1990s, leading to hundreds of deaths from asbestos-related illness.
But this fall marks a major turning point for the Environmental Protection Agency “Superfund” cleanup, and for Libby as a whole. Major industrial sites been converted into parks and other areas safe for the public, and owners of homes and businesses that have been cleaned are finally free of the stigma of the past 18 years.
“We’ve looked at over 8,100 properties in the Libby footprint,” said EPA Libby Remedial Project Manager Mike Cirian. “We’ve had to deal with anything from no cleanups all the way to cleaning up everything at these properties. Including interiors, exteriors, the whole works. So, over the years we’ve addressed most of those. We’re down to our last year now. In fact, we’re down to our last couple of months. And within that, we’re down to properties that are smaller, not as much contaminant.”
While there are still about 200 properties where people opted not to have a cleanup for a variety of reasons, Circian says EPA has been able to break the “exposure pathway” for asbestosis. He calls it a real “success story”.
Story by Dennis Bragg, MTN News