Former Employee Helped Delay Asbestos Studies

By Beacon Staff

MISSOULA – A former W.R. Grace & Co. employee testified that he helped the company delay a federal health study of the Libby vermiculite mine.

Robert Locke testified Wednesday during the trial in which Columbia, Md.-based Grace and five one-time company officials are charged with endangering the community of Libby by mining asbestos-laced ore, and doing so in violation of federal law.

Locke says the study, promoted in 1980 and 1981 by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, would have assessed the public health hazards of asbestos-laced vermiculite mined near Libby. Locke says the outcome could have devastated Grace’s vermiculite business.

In one memo discussed Wednesday, Locke advised his supervisors to “be slow, review things extensively and contribute to delay.”

Locke said he took company documents just before leaving in 1998, fearing he would need them in the event criminal actions were taken.

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