EPA Releases Draft Institutional Controls Plan For Libby Asbestos Superfund

Feds plan to hand off control of site to state in 2020

By Justin Franz
An Environmental Protection Agency office. Beacon file photo

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has released a draft of its institutional controls plan for the Libby Asbestos Superfund site.

The plan, which was released on Oct. 31, will serve as a guide to contain the asbestos left behind in the ground and homes in Lincoln County when the federal government hands off control of the site to the state next year.

The public has until Dec. 31 to review and comment on the proposal.

The handoff of Operable Units 4 and 7, which includes all of residential Libby and Troy, to the Montana Department of Environmental Quality is part of the superfund site transitioning to the “operations and maintenance” phase of the cleanup. The other Operable Units, which include the former industrial properties and the old asbestos mine north of Libby, will remain under federal control.

While some asbestos was removed during the cleanup, much of it was left in place in the walls of buildings or underground. Federal officials have said that as long as the material is not disturbed it does not pose a threat to the public.

The proposed institutional controls include maintaining a data base of properties that were not cleaned during the superfund cleanup as well as educational programs to inform the public, contractors and others of the dangers of disturbing asbestos. Residents would also have to inform the Asbestos Resource Program (run by Lincoln County) before doing various activities like excavating, landscaping and interior or exterior demolition.

While Montana DEQ oversee the site, the EPA will still review the effectiveness of the institutional controls every five years. Officials have said the institutional controls are “key to the success of protecting the cleanup and public cooperation with the institutional controls is essential.” The draft institutional controls are available for review online at https://cumulis.epa.gov/supercpad/cursites/csitinfo.cfm?id=0801744 or in person at the EPA Information Center in Libby at 108 East Ninth St. The public can send comments to Dania Zinner, the EPA’s remedial project manager, via email at zinner.dania@epa.gov or the via U.S. mail to U.S. EPA Region 8, 1595 Wynkoop St., Denver, Colorado 80202-1129.

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