Agencies Select Soil Removal Containment for Libby Asbestos Site

Records of decisions for Operable Units 1 and 2 (the former W.R. Grace Export and Screening plants) at the Libby Asbestos Superfund Site in Libby, Mont., were signed this week by Richard Opper, director of the Montana Department of Environmental Quality, and Carol Campbell, assistant regional administrator for Ecosystems Protection in EPA’s Region 8. These records of decision determine the remedies for the cleanup of two prominent properties within the Superfund site.

EPA significantly amended its proposed plans to address the concerns of the citizens in Lincoln County. In order to protect human health and the environment, a combination of soil removal and containment (capping) will be used to break the critical soil-to-air exposure pathway.

“EPA will work closely with the city of Libby, the owner of OU 1, during the design so the remedy will complement any planned future use of the property," Campbell said.

In November 1999, EPA sent an Emergency Response Team to Libby as the result of local concern and news articles about asbestos-contaminated vermiculite that was mined near town by the W.R. Grace Corporation. The mine has been inactive since 1990 and access to the Grace property has been restricted for several years.

In 2002, the Libby Asbestos Site was added to the National Priorities List (Superfund) and more than 3,000 properties were inspected and sampled. By October of 2009, more than 1,100 properties had been cleaned up in the residential areas (OU 4) and significant toxicity studies had been initiated to complete the Baseline Risk Assessment.

Investigations are ongoing in the neighboring town of Troy (OU 7), at the mine site (OU 3), at various former vermiculite processing areas (OUs 1, 2, and 5), OU 6 (the railroad rights of way) and OU 8 (state highways).

In June 2009, EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson announced the agency has determined that a public health emergency exists at the Libby asbestos site. This is the first time EPA has made a determination under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) that conditions at a site constitute a public health emergency. This determination recognizes the serious impact to the public health from the contamination at Libby and underscores the need for further action and health care for area residents who have been or may be exposed to asbestos.

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