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EPA proposes strict asbestos cleanup standards (part one)

In recent months, we have written multiple blog posts about the town of Libby, Montana, where 30 years of nearby vermiculite mining has caused the town to be coated with asbestos and hundreds of its residents to be diagnosed with and die of mesothelioma and related diseases.

Most recently, we wrote about the ongoing asbestos cleanup in Libby and the logistical and bureaucratic roadblocks to those efforts. At the time of that July blog post, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had not yet determined a safe level of human exposure to the asbestos that had spread throughout Libby. This caused a major delay in the cleanup efforts, with state and federal officials unsure of just how thorough they were required to be when removing the asbestos and renovating the Libby land.

Now, the EPA has handed down a proposal for the federal cleanup of asbestos contamination in Libby, which would seemingly be a positive step toward the ultimate resolution of the asbestos problem that has plagued Libby residents for decades.

Unfortunately, that proposal has been met with significant resistance from W.R. Grace & Co., the chemical company that operated the mine and that was responsible for the vermiculite and asbestos contamination. The company claims that the proposed safe level of exposure is 5,000 times tougher than the standard used in previous asbestos cleanups. As such, the company says, it could cause other sites around the country to undergo similar costly cleanups despite those locations having fulfilled the previous EPA requirements.

We will continue this discussion in our next blog post.

Source: WMBF, "EPA pushes tough asbestos standard for Mont. town," Matthew Brown, Sept. 27, 2012

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