The people of Libby, Montana may be able to breathe a little easier – or may not – when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency releases its final assessment of the amphibole asbestos situation in the small Montana town that is at the center of the largest environmental disaster in the country.
According to a report in the Western News, Victor Kettellapper, the EPA team leader in Libby, told city officials and others with a vested interest in the report, that they could expect the final assessment to be complete within a year. He notes that they are still awaiting reports on toxicity levels, issued by the agency’s Science Advisory Board (SAB). These determine what levels of amphibole asbestos are tolerable.
“They (SAB) met in February, and it will take up to six months to get the reports, so then we hope to digest and respond to it. We’re hopeful to have (risk assessment) in about a year,” he said.
“The main thing is it will establish the potential risk to the community,” Ketellapper said. “It will establish whether added cleanup is needed and where our additional focus will need to be.”
Ketellapper says he believes life has already gotten better for Libby residents and will continue to improve. However, locals were disappointed when the EPA refused to place local physician, Dr. Brad Black, on the Science Advisory Board. They believed he was the most knowledgeable about the situation in Libby, caused by exposure to asbestos-tainted vermiculite from a mine owned by W.R. Grace and Company. Grace was the maker of Zonolite insulation and other similar products. About 400 Libby residents have already died from mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases. Another 1,800 or so are sick.