Logging Libby: can asbestos-contaminated trees be harvested safely?

19 Nov 2012 by Wendi Lewis under News, Research/Treatment

forest libby 100x100 Logging Libby: can asbestos contaminated trees be harvested safely?A new feasibility study examines the possibility of logging some 35,000 acres of timber surrounding the town of , . is the site of the former W.R. Grace & Co. vermiculite mine, and now the largest and most deadly Environmental Protection Agency () Superfund cleanup site in the United States.

More than 400 people died and thousands more were sickened after the mining operation released fibers over the town for years. -related diseases include , a type of cancer that affects the lining of the lungs, abdomen or sometimes the heart, and asbestosis, a severe scarring of the lungs.

was declared a Superfund site in 2002 and a public health emergency in 2009. The has spent nearly $4 million working to remove -contaminated soil and clean up buildings, parks, and other public spaces. The new study examines the possibility of rehabilitating the surrounding forest land, and helping create a new industry for in logging.

However, a 2004 study by University of professor Tony Ward revealed contamination levels between 14 million and 260 million fibers per square centimeter of bark surface area of trees located close to the mine site. The study theorizes the fibers are embedded in the tree bark, but the interior wood would not be affected. The challenge would be to harvest and process the trees without stirring up or releasing the fibers, stripping the bark and disposing of it safely.

Two remediation companies drafted the feasibility study in cooperation with the – The Beck Group out of Portland, Ore., and Envirocon, based in Missoula. The 45-page report is titled “ Remediation Plan for Forested Areas near , .” The is establishing current toxicity values for , due to be released in 2013, and compiling a risk assessment. The remediation project team estimates it would take about 10 years to complete the remedial logging.

Source: The Missoulian

 

 

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