Posts Tagged ‘W.R. Grace & Co.’

Wildfire threatens Libby asbestos mine

15 Sep 2017 by under News
20090617 libbymineCREDITEPA 100x100 Wildfire threatens Libby asbestos mine

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What happens when a former asbestos mine catches on fire? It’s a question those fighting fires nearing Libby, Montana, the home of the former asbestos mine, have had to address this week. News reports earlier this week discussed concerns the nearing West Fork Fire was causing due to its proximity to the mine and potential to release amounts of asbestos into the air. (more…)


Libby, Montana asbestos case to be reviewed by Workman’s Compensation Court

28 Jan 2015 by under Legal, News

forest libby 100x100 Libby, Montana asbestos case to be reviewed by Workman’s Compensation CourtIn 2009, Edwin Moreau died of -related after working at W.R. Grace Mine in Libby, Mont., for almost 30 years. Since he became ill, his wife, Cristita Moreau, has been battling to secure her husband’s benefits to cover his medical expenses. Initially, her claim for occupational disease benefits was refused by Transportation Insurance, W.R. Grace’s company covering claims from sick workers. In 2010, Moreau filed a petition with the Workman’s Compensation Court, which resulted in a settlement in 2013. (more…)


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 , Mont., asbestos Superfund 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. (more…)


Future tied up in past as asbestos deaths continue in Libby

30 Dec 2009 by under News

As part of its look back at the year 2009, the Missioulian newspaper spoke with residents of , Montana, the “poster child” for mesothelioma and other asbestos related diseases. and its people have been decimated by asbestos exposure from the vermiculite mine that for generations operated in the town. Even those who did not work in the mine were affected, as asbestos dust blanketed the town, spilled from trucks and railway cars, and asbestos particles were used as landfill throughout the town.

W.R. Grace & Company operated the mine. In 2009, the company and several of its officers were brought up on criminal charges, but a jury returned a verdict of “not guilty.” Many following the trial closely said the government botched its case against the company, and others argued Grace’s deep pockets simply outpaced the efforts of a handful of government lawyers.

The aquittal was another in a long line of emotional blows for Libby residents, who hoped to see W.R. Grace finally brought to justice for the devastation of their hometown, their families and loved ones. Generations of Libby residents have already died of mesothelioma, and many more are currently suffering from mesothelioma, , lung cancer, and a host of other ailments caused by longterm exposure to asbestos.

On June 17, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency finally declared a public health emergency in Libby. This designation – the first of its kind in American history – will allow the government to increase funds to provide for medical treatment for Libby residents, and for research into asbestos disease. According to the Missoulian, Libby has already received $6 million, which is designated for patient screening and care, and the town is set to receive an additional $2 million for health care and home care assistance. The paper reports the asbestos health care clinic – the Center for Asbestos Related Diseases (CARD) – and the local hospital are planning expansions.

At the beginning of December, a series of town hall meetings were held, hoping to address important questions about safety and health, including whether or not the government’s clean-up efforts are truly making any difference.

For residents who already have seen husbands, fathers, brothers, sisters, husbands and wives die terrible deaths from asbestos disease, it is too little too late. They try to remain strong, but they are angry, and sad, and it’s hard to hold onto hope.

Read the full article by Missoulian reporter Micheal Jamison.


Montana newspaper series takes a look at Libby today

9 Dec 2009 by under News

A series of stories in the Daily Inter Lake, which serves Northwest Montana and which initially broke the story about widespread asbestos contamination of the town of Libby, Mont., in 1999, is featuring a series of stories about the town. The feature is related to a recent town hall style meeting organized by the University of Montana, which is seeking to get clarification from the (EPA) about just how much toxicity remains in the town.

The town hall meeting, which was held Dec. 6, featured a panel discussion about the deadly fallout from town’s vermiculite asbestos mine, which was operated for years by W.R. Grace & Company. Even those who didn’t work in the mine were exposed to asbestos, as dust from the mine covered the surrounding area, railroad tracks and roads used to transport the materials. Asbestos was even used as filler for gardens and ballparks.

According to the Daily Inter Lake report, more than 300 deaths have been linked to asbestos exposure from the vermiculite mine. A special health clinic established by the EPA after the story broke about the widespread asbestos disease affecting Libby area residents is currently treating about 2,800 patients with varying levels of asbestos disease.

Dr. Brad Black, who oversees patient care at the clinic, called the Center for Asbestos Related Disease (CARD), says it’s impossible to really determine how many people have been affected by asbestos in Libby, because around 80,000 people “came and went in Libby while the mine was operating,” the paper reports.

Because of the long latency period of asbestos disease – which includes conditions such as asbestosis, a severe scarring of the lungs that impedes lung function and limits breathing, and , a deadly cancer that affects the lining of the lungs or, more rarely, the abdomen or heart – which is sometimes as long as 30 or 40 years, Black estimates cases will continue to emerge well into the future, through the year 2030.

Since the asbestos contamination of Libby was brought to light, it has been a roller-coaster ride for area residents. The EPA has spent more than $206 million to date to clean up residential and commercial properties. In June, Libby was declared a public health emergency, which is the first time the agency has made such a determination under the 1980 Superfund law. This will allow more money to be put into the town’s cleanup efforts.

However, there are still lingering questions about just how effective these cleanup efforts really are. The EPA has divided the Libby Superfund site into eight geographical units, and has so far only completed cleanup on two of those units. However, some scientists argue that the type of asbestos affecting Libby – amphibole – is much more toxic than chrysotile asbestos, and that cleanup efforts are being conducted using old research on the wrong type of asbestos.

The Daily Inter Lake reports that EPA officials have admitted they are using toxicology assessments from 1985 data on less toxic asbestos, not Libby asbestos. This is despite a more recent study completed in 2003, which “established exposure benchmarks for mesothelioma and lung cancer based on asbestos epidemiologic studies,” the news agency reports.

According to the paper, federal government risk assessment standards say cleanup efforts are necessary when there is evidence of one death per 10,000 people. In Libby, where the population is around 10,000 people, there have already been 31 deaths just from mesothelioma. This doesn’t even take into account the suffering and death from other asbestos-related diseases.

The asbestos contamination also has been a see-saw on the legal front. In May, W.R. Grace & Co. and several of its top leaders were acquitted of criminal charges related to the widespread asbestos disease affecting its residents. Nearly 800 people still have pending civil suits against the company, which have been delayed by bankrupcy claims on the part of Grace. The company is expected to emerge from bankruptcy in January.

Testimony resulting from the bankruptcy trial in October revealed that there is a 59 percent probability of death for Libby residents exposed to asbestos dust.

“No other place on the planet has that,” the Daily Inter Lake quotes attorney John Heberling, who is representing asbestos clients.

This is a fascinating and tragic series of stories, and I encourage you to visit the Daily Inter Lake online to read the full series. It includes a feature on Gayla Benefield, who, along with compatriot Les Skramstad, began the campaign to expose the Libby contamination and lobby for justice for the town. Here are just a few of the links:

What is a safe dose for Libby?
What’s next for Libby?
Asbestos victims try to stay upbeat
Advocate’s work for asbestos victims spans 35 years
Grace lawsuit claimants still in limbo


EPA assisting in asbestos cleanup in Massachusetts

14 Aug 2009 by under News

There is news this week that underscores the fears of our good friend Mike Crill, who has been so personally affected by the asbestos contamination in Libby, Montana. Mike has been concerned about how contamination from the W. R. Grace vermiculite mine in Libby, which operated for years in that town, would actually affect the entire country as a result of the product being exported to factories across the country, for use in making Zonolite insulation.

This week, a story in The Republican reports the U.S. will provide assistance to an Easthampton, Mass., town to clean up soil that is contaminated with asbestos. The affected land is the former site of a vermiculite insulation factory operated by W.R. Grace. Although the facility closed 20 years ago, it has left a legacy of danger for residents.

According to The Republican report, Grace shipped more than 250,000 tons of vermiculite ore from its Montana mine to the Easthampton factory over a period of about 40 years.

The cleanup comes as a result of city plans to extend a scenic trail into the area, and also hopes to install a new sewer line. According to The Republican, the cleanup effort involves a span of about 1,000 feet that would be the location of the trail extension and sewer project. It is estimated that soil may have to be removed to a depth of 6-12 inches, although the is still examining the area.

Asbestos exposure is linked to mesothelioma, a deadly cancer that affects the lining of the chest and lungs, or, more rarely, the abdomen or heart. The only known cause of mesothelioma is asbestos exposure. There is currently no known cure for meso.


Update as Grace trial continues

5 Mar 2009 by under Events, Legal, News

The criminal trial against W.R. Grace & Co. is continuing this week at the Russell Smith federal courthouse in Missoula, . The company, along with former company officials, are charged with conspiracy, obstruction of justice and knwoing endangerment of the Clean Air Act. The government says Grace knew its vermiculite mine in Libby, , produced dangerous asbestos that put the health of its workers and the nearby townspeople at risk.

Hundreds have died in Libby as a result of exposure to asbestos, suffering a number of serious asbestos related diseases including asbestosis, a serious scarring of the lungs, and mesothelioma, a deadly cancer that affects the lining of the lungs and/or the abdomen. In 1999 an investigation revealed widespread asbestos contamination in Libby, and the Environmental Protection Agency began an effort to clean up the town, which continues today.

The story is receiving coverage from a number of media sources. The New Yorker called this the “most significant environmental criminal trial in American history.”

Early on, Judge Donald Molloy sparked anger in Libby residents when he ruled that victim witnesses would not be allowed to sit in on the trial. Regular myMeso reader and contributor Mike Crill, a longtime resident of Libby who has lost several family members to asbestos disease and suffers from asbestosis himself, was quoted in the Montana Kaimin when he and other Libby residents staged protests outside the courthouse.

The Kaimin quotes Crill as saying, “So much for freedom of speech, huh? Especially when you’re the victims and you’re being told that you’re not the victims.”

There is a great blog site by writer Tristan Scott, who also is doing a comprehensive series on the trial for The Missoulian, that is detailing the goings on at the Grace criminal trial. The blog, Cops and Courts, which bills itself as a “criminal justice blog” even has transcripts from court proceedings.

The also has a special site set up with lots of archival information about W.R. Grace and Libby, Montana, as well as facts about asbestos, vermiculite mining and more. The site includes videos and slideshows as well.

Photo courtesy of Cops and Courts blog.