EPA Administrator to Visit Libby

By Beacon Staff

WASHINGTON (AP) – The head of the Environmental Protection Agency will hold a public meeting in Libby, Mont., next week to discuss the agency’s asbestos cleanup efforts there.

Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., said Tuesday that EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson will take an Aug. 6 tour of cleanup sites in the area. That will be Johnson’s first visit to the town since he became EPA administrator in 2005.

Libby is home to the now-closed W.R. Grace & Co. vermiculite mine. The vermiculite, used in a variety of household products, contained tremolite asbestos, which was released into the air, carried home on miners’ clothing and even used in material spread on a high school running surface.

The asbestos is blamed by some health authorities for killing about 200 people and sickening one of every eight residents. The EPA, which has declared the area a Superfund site, first arrived in Libby in 1999, when news reports linked asbestos contamination from the mine to the deaths and illnesses.

Baucus said he wants the EPA to be held accountable for its cleanup efforts.

“I’m angry that, after seven years, EPA still cannot say the town is safe from asbestos exposure,” Baucus said. “People are dying in Libby. I want Mr. Johnson to see it with his own two eyes.”