EPA Looking to Finalize Cleanup of Asbestos-Contaminated Town

A panel of independent scientists confirmed findings by the federal Environmental Protection Agency that show even “miniscule” amounts of asbestos cause lung problems.

According to this story in the Insurance Journal, the science panel’s confirmation paves the way for the eventual finalization and release of a risk study on asbestos cleanup in the troubled mining town of Libby, Mont. The final risk study is expected sometime in 2014, says the EPA.

Libby is near the site of the former W.R. Grace Zonolite (an insulation product) vermiculite mining operation, which closed down in 1990. After decades of production, it was found that vermiculite from the mine was heavily contaminated by tremolite, a toxic form of naturally occurring asbestos.

In its draft report of the risk study, the EPA found that going above “extremely low levels” of airborne asbestos — 0.00002 fibers of the mineral per cubic centimeter — raises the risk of lung-scarring. Scars in the lungs frequently cause potentially fatal diseases, such as malignant mesothelioma, a rare but deadly cancer. The science board said the EPA was correct in using lung-scarring to determine asbestos risk.

The risk study will help the EPA determine when cleanup work can end in Libby. Started in 1999, the Libby asbestos abatement has so far cost more than $447 million. So extensive was the asbestos contamination, the town has been under a first-of-its kind public health emergency declaration (issued by the EPA) since 2009.

This year alone, the EPA expects to clean up at least 80 and as many as 100 properties in Libby, with several hundred more to be addressed. And depending on the risk study’s findings, this number could grow significantly.

The legacy of asbestos contamination has been devastating to the small community. Hundreds of people in and around the town have died from asbestos-related diseases, and many more have become sickened. Sadly, many more deaths are expected for decades to come because of the latency period of asbestos-related diseases — sometimes as much as 40 years.

If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma or any other asbestos-related condition, you may be entitled to financial compensation. To learn more about your legal options, please contact Sokolove Law today. Asbestos attorneys have helped thousands of victims.