Libby, Montana, still waiting on EPA risk assessment of asbestos Superfund site

19 Aug 2013 by under Events, News, Organizations

asbestos warning 100x100 Libby, Montana, still waiting on EPA risk assessment of asbestos Superfund siteDespite initial promises to deliver its Human Health Risk Assessment of the Libby, Mont., asbestos cleanup site in 2005, last week representatives of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said the final report would not be ready until late 2014. Residents of Libby have been struggling for more than a decade to recover from massive contamination that likely caused the deaths and serious illnesses of hundreds of residents.

The asbestos that contaminated the town originated at the W.R. Grace & Co. vermiculite mine, which closed in 1990 after operating for decades. Libby was declared a Superfund site in 2002. The original EPA risk assessment was expected in 2005, but delayed after the agency determined it had no appropriate model on which to base its results. No other asbestos Superfund site was as large or involved as Libby.

The EPA pledged to have results of its risk assessment complete by 2007, but was unable to meet that deadline either. The agency had hoped to have a plan ready this year, but was delayed once again.

The review includes three studies – a toxicology assessment, risk assessment, and a feasibility study. These studies will allow the EPA to determine an “acceptable” level of amphibole asbestos that can be left behind in Lincoln County, and how much work is left to do to clean the site.

The Center for Asbestos Related Disease, or CARD Clinic, which was established in 2002, has records of approximately 2,000 resident or former residents of Lincoln County who have been diagnosed with asbestos-related diseases. At least 400 people died of asbestos-related diseases, including mesothelioma, a form of cancer caused by asbestos exposure.

The toxicology study is a measure of the exposure and the toxicity of the compound. It will determine how Libby asbestos is directly tied to cancer and noncancerous health issues. Once the toxicity numbers are verified, the EPA can determine a final risk assessment.

The risk assessment “is not a decision-making document, but will present the data,” Deborah McKean, a toxicologist for the Region 8 EPA headquarters told the Daily Inter Lake news. She expects the toxicity report to be complete around June 2014 and the risk assessment report to be complete about six months after that.

The feasibility study will be the decision-making document to determine options for the ultimate remedial action in Libby. This will be either an end or a beginning for Libby – the end of the EPA’s presence and cleanup actions, or the start of another round of work to ensure all the asbestos has been removed from Lincoln County.

Daily Inter Lake
Flathead Beacon

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