Those familiar with the fight to ban asbestos have long been familiar with Libby ï¿½ a small mining and logging town in the northwest expanses of Montana.
A great write-up from AP reporter Matthew Brown chronicles in heartbreaking detail what residents of the town — now the most dangerous superfund site in the history of the U.S. — have dealt with over the years. The story chronicles Gayla Benefield and Eva Thomson, two sisters who’ve seen witnessed mesothelioma and asbestos claim the lives of numerous close family members and friends. From recounts of kids unknowingly playing on asbestos-laden waste piles left near a local baseball field, to stories of cover-ups by W.R. Grace (the mine owners), and a town broken in the most literal sense of the word, the story should be a wake-up call for those of the very real dangers of this mineral.
The EPA has been waging a war in Libby, against a barely-visible killer that has already claimed at least 400 lives and sentences another 15-20 per month to near-certain death from increased asbestos exposure. Considering the townï¿½s total population of 3,000, these results are nothing short of staggering.
Originally estimated to take two years at a cost of $5.8 million, the EPAï¿½s cleanup effort is now at a decade with a cost of more than $330 million. And with asbestos continuing to show up in everything from schools, to trees (one tree near the W.R. Grace mine testing at 500 million asbestos fibers per gram of bark), inside of walls and beneath the soil, it seems such a cleanup effort won’t be ending anytime soon. And perhaps the most poignant reminder this article puts forth and a reminder of why the work must not stop until asbestos is banned: ï¿½No one has gone to jail for what happened in Libby.ï¿½