Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Environmental Disaster in Libby, MT

On our way from Troy to Kalispell, we passed through the town of Libby and stopped there to fix a balky lock on the Airstream. Kate had done a little research on the town and found that they were in the process of cleaning up one of the worst industrial pollution disasters in the country.

The EPA had determined that the town was literally swimming in asbestos that was a naturally occurring element in the Vermiculite ore that was mined there to make among other things home insulation.

Over the years, the town had not only become permeated with the dust, but many of the homes had been insulated with it as well. Over 274 people have died, and many more are sick. W.R. Grace, the company responsible for the mess has somehow been exonerated in the matter, but has agreed to reimburse the EPA for some of the over $250 million dollars spent to remedy it.

But for a quaint little town nestled in the mountains of Montana, the residents are the ones who have really had to pay the price. Two documentary films, Libby, Montana, and Dust to Dust, and three books (An Air That Kills by Andrew Schneider and David McCumber, Libby, Montana: Asbestos and the Deadly Silence of an American Corporation by Andrea Peacock, and Fatal Deception by Michael Bowker) have been written regarding the Grace asbestos tragedy in Libby.

On June 17, 2009 the EPA declared its first public health emergency. This emergency covers Libby and nearby Troy. It will provide an additional $130 million dollars in cleanup and medical assistance. For more information on this go to: EPA to Cleanup Libby, MT

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