The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will continue cleaning up asbestos from properties in Lincoln County for another year following an outpouring of last-minute requests.
Mike Cirian, remedial project manager for the EPA, said the federal agency will clean up roughly 70 new properties in the Libby area and roughly 50 will be carried over to next year.
“We were trying to complete all properties in Libby and we’re very close,” Cirian said.
The cleanups are part of the Superfund program that was initiated in the early 2000s after it was discovered that asbestos-contaminated vermiculite had sickened and killed hundreds in the community.
In January, the EPA announced a “last call” for residents of Libby and Troy to participate in the asbestos cleanup. Officials gave residents until March to ask the agency to inspect their property for contamination and potential cleanup at no expense to the property owner. If no inspections were sought, the future cost of remediating any contamination could fall on the individual owner.
“We had an overwhelming response” to the last call, Cirian said.
Cirian said more than 260 people asked for federal inspections, which led to 70 additional cleanups.
From the early 2000s to January 2017, more than 7,500 properties within the Superfund site have been inspected and about 2,440 have required cleanup actions. Four years ago, there were nearly 800 people neglecting federal inspections and potential cleanups of their properties, but that number has dropped to roughly 280 property owners who own 320 properties in the area, Cirian said.