Accessible Navigation. Go to: Navigation Main Content Footer

Libby Community Advisory Group
Meeting Summary

September 5, 2001

Gerald Mueller and members of the Libby Community Advisory Group (CAG) introduced themselves. A list of the members in attendance and guests is attached below as Appendix 1.


Mr. Mueller reviewed an agenda for this meeting including the following topics:

(Link to letter to Governor Whitman, September 7, 2001)

EPA Report

Wendy Thomi and Paul Peronard reported on behalf of EPA.

Wendy Thomi stated that the evaluations of the CAG have been compiled and will be shared at a future CAG meeting. Overall, the evaluations were favorable. Some changes were requested and will follow. The EPA grant to TOSC is ending at the close of this month. A new grant will be awarded via a competitive solicitation. The current grant to Montana Tech and Mr. Mellott may be extended for a couple of months to ensure a smooth transition and uninterrupted technical support to the CAG.

Paul Peronard provided an outline of Administrator Whitman's Libby visit on Friday. She will arrive in Libby at about 8:00 a.m. She will attend a public meeting at Libby high school from 9:00 to 11:00 a.m. From 11:15 - 11:45 a.m., Administrator Whitman will hold a news conference. Beginning at 11:45 a.m., Paul Peronard and Duc Nguyen will conduct a tour for the Administrator of the export and screening plant and the Seifke residential cleanup.

Audience and CAG Member Comments - Workers at the export plant building demolition were seen today not wearing the required protective clothing or respirators.

Response - The area inside the fence at the export plant site requires level C protection, including protective clothing and respirators. Mr. Nguyen stated that at about 10:00 to 11:30 a.m., workers at the site were wearing the required gear. He also said that air monitoring is occurring at six locations around the export plant site. EPA will, however, look into this comment as failure to have workers in the "hot zone" wear proper safety clothing and equipment would be a violation of the cleanup order.

Audience Member Question - Who is conducting the cleanup at the export plant site on behalf of W.R. Grace?

Answer - Mark Owens is the primary contractor and Jim Stout is consulting.

CAG Member Question - Are the buildings that are being demolished supposed to be wetted as a dust prevention measure?

Answer - The work plan requires application of water to prevent dust. The inside of the buildings and their perimeters are supposed to be wetted. Water is not being sprayed on the tin roof because doing so would make them slippery.

Audience Member Question - When will EPA be meeting with BN's Mr. Smith regarding the railroad cleanup?

Answer - Paul Peronard will be meeting Mr. Smith tomorrow.

Export Plant Cleanup

As we have been discussing, demolition of the buildings have begun, beginning with the building closest to Highway 37. As the buildings are torn down, soil will also be excavated. On the west side of the property, vermiculite waste will be removed from the tree line path area.

Railroad Cleanup

The process is beginning with a walk along the track, examination of the data, and development of a cleanup plan. BN is deciding whether it prefers to remove or manage the contamination in place. The most difficult question is what to do about the main railroad line.

School Cleanups

  • Middle school - Excavation is finished. Sampling and restoration work is continuing including cleaning the parking area and backfilling the excavation. We will soon begin work on the track.
    High school - The excavation under the bleachers and cleanup of the last of the buildings has been completed. The concrete footings for the bleachers and new gravel has been spread under the bleachers. Work has begun filling in the excavation of the track. The football goal posts have been installed and aligned.

KDC Bluffs

Excavation has begun and will continue for another three weeks. Another three weeks will then be required for restoration.

KDC Flyway

On September 10, removal of the material temporarily stored at the area south of the screening plant site should begin to be moved to the mine for disposal. Removal, backfilling and grading should be completed this fall.

Residential Properties

At the Seifke property, contaminated equipment should be removed this week. The interior of the house and out buildings will then be cleaned.

Next Year

EPA expects next year cleanups will address Rainy Creek road and drainage, the railroad tracks, and residential property.

CAG Member Question - Is it correct that EPA intends to remove four feet of soil from six and a half acres at the KDC Bluffs site?

Answer - No. We have found three discrete piles of contamination on this site amounting to a total of about one acre. In addressing these piles, we will go as deep as necessary to remove the contamination.

CAG Member Comment -A truck driver who worked at the ball fields said that the removal there only went down 18 to 24 inches, in his view not deep enough to remove all of the contamination. Response- EPA policy is to begin by removing visible vermiculite and chase it as far as it goes. W.R. Grace removed soil to a depth of 18 inches and did not get all of the contamination. This is an issue between EPA and W.R. Grace. We have also found low spots in the wooded area at the export plant site that were filled with tailings and waste that have yet to be addressed.

Audience Member Comment - Regarding railroad sampling, all soil samples I know of were taken on the river side of the tracks. No samples were taken were to old track was located.

Response - EPA has sampled on the slope and base of the tracks and found contamination.

CAG Member Question - I have been told that EPA removed the Zonolite insulation from one house and replaced it with new uncontaminated insulation. Is this right?

Answer - EPA has removed and replaced Zonolite insulation from three houses in phase II of the residential sampling. We did so on a pilot basis to learn about the cost of removing and replacing insulation, an important factor in developing the recommendation concerning removing insulation from Libby homes. Mr. Peronard stated that, as the CAG is aware, he has recommended to his superiors that EPA proceed with removing zonolite insulation from Libby homes.

CAG Member Question - You described a decision process for removing material at the export plant site. You said that you begin removing visible vermiculite and continue removing it downward as far as it goes. Will you use this same procedure in cleaning up the town?

Answer - Yes. We will look for vermiculite or tailings materials and clean it up as you described.

CAG Member Question - What standard such as 1% asbestos or 10 asbestos fibers per cubic centimeter will you use in Libby cleanups?

Answer - In evaluating cleanups, the exposure and method of contact is more important than the concentration of asbestos in air or soils.

CAG Member Question - Is the scope of work in the NPL investigation of Libby defined now?

Answer - The scope will rely on sampling plans developed here. Where we find vermiculite, we will remove it.

CAG Member Question - What will be done about trace amounts below the surface in lawns, etc.?

Answer - We will answer this question in the feasibility study. We will release the proposed cleanup plan for public comment. For example, in Stockton, Utah, we cleaned up lead contamination. Above a certain level, we cleaned up the contamination immediately. Below that level, we relied on the investigation to make the cleanup decision.

CAG Member Question - Will the standard level that determines whether you cleanup immediately or investigate be set prior to the NPL decision?

Answer - No. Some things we are cleaning up immediately. The cleanup/investigate level will be defined in the context of possible exposure.

CAG Member Question - How do you answer the question, "My kids played in contaminated materials, what do I do?

Answer - The medical screening found very few young people with abnormalities. The radiation techniques (chest x-rays) were appropriate for adults but not for children. Except for pulmonary function tests, the techniques are not available for children. Research on diffusion capacity is underway, and that may help. Dr. Houlian's group at UM is looking for biomarkers. We don't have medical treatment for asbestosis.

CAG Member Question - Are you (i.e. Paul Peronard) being replaced?

Answer - No. I will be here through the duration. Johanna Miller will be rejoining our team because her maternity leave has ended.

CAG Member Question - Will contracting firms continue to be hired locally?

Answer - Yes. We will continue to hire locally. We don't want to have to repeat the learning curve every year. We hope to build up a local pool of skilled workers.

CAG Member Question - How did you find that the export plant site is still contaminated after W.R. Grace cleaned it?

Answer - You could see the contamination. W.R. Grace has not fulfilled its obligations under the current cleanup plant for the export plant site.

CAG Member Question - Is W.R. Grace qualified to continue the cleanup?

Answer - The people they have working are licensed and have the proper health and safety certifications. The crucial test is how well the work gets done. The quality is an issue with EPA.

CAG Member Question - How many violations can occur before EPA takes over the job from W.R. Grace?

Answer - It depends on how many and what type of violations occur. EPA has had to repeat work at times. If people are knowingly and purposefully being placed in the "hot zone" without adequate protection, EPA will take over.

CAG Member Question - Is OSHA overseeing cleanup work?

Answer - The state inspected EPA activities this summer. Both OSHA and NIOSH audit EPA cleanup activities. We welcome oversight by a third party because they are not subject to production pressures.

CAG Member Comment - Under the federal Superfund statute, each state governor can put one site on the NPL without the normal attendant process. Montana has not exercised this option.

Response - Under the 1980 statute, there are three paths for listing a site:

  • EPA's ranking process with formal public comment; \
  • An ATSDR public health advisory, which again requires public comment; and
• One pick by each state which forgoes public comment process.

CAG Member Question - How much would the cleanup be sped up if the Governor used her one designation?

Answer - The cleanup period might be shortened by forgoing six months of public process plus no court delays.

CAG Member Question - In the EPA ranking procedure for NPL designation, is there potential for significant court delays?

Answer - The potential exists that W.R. Grace could tie up the listing in court.

CAG Member Question - If the Governor exercised this option, would the state still have its 10% funding requirement?

Answer - Yes, it would still have to pay the 10% of the cleanup costs.

CAG Member Question - Is there a downside to the Governor selecting the one site?

Answer - There would not be the normal public process.

CAG Member Question - Has EPA discussed this option with the Governor?

Answer - Not yet. Administrator Whitman will discuss it with Governor Martz.

Audience Member Comment - The Kalispell Daily Interlake did a survey asking whether people wanted Libby included on the NPL, and the answer was an overwhelming yes.

Audience Member Comment - The local teacher's union conducted a poll which was overwhelmingly in favor of NPL designation.

Preparation for Whitman Visit

The CAG discussed and agreed on the content of a five minute statement to be presented during the public meeting attended by EPA Administrator Whitman on Friday, September 7. Rick Palagi agreed to read the statement on the CAG's behalf. Sandy Wagner agreed to write the statement.

CAG Action - The CAG members present at this meeting agreed unanimously that Sandy Wagner would write and Rick Palagi would present a statement including the following points:

If Libby is included on the National Priorities List, it should be added as two separate operable units covering the asbestos-contaminated areas - (1) the mine and its drainage, and (2) the remainder of south Lincoln County.
Cleanup pursuant to the NPL should happen contemporaneously with the investigation and should be completed within two years.

The Cleanup should result in a clean bill of health for both areas.
With the exception of W.R. Grace, Libby residences and businesses should be held harmless from paying cleanup costs.
EPA should commit to cleaning up Libby asbestos contamination problems now and any that arise in the future.
EPA should remove and replace Zonolite insulation where property owners want it done.
The CAG encourages continued coordination on long-term health care issues.
The CAG supports fully the Region 8 and local team of EPA, HHS, and OSHA personnel.
The CAG appreciates the efforts of the local team.
If NPL proves to be necessary, then Governor Martz should exercise the Montana Governor's prerogative of including Libby on the National Priorities List without the normal EPA listing process to expedite the cleanup.
The CAG is thankful to the Montana Congressional delegation for their actions on behalf of Libby.

A copy of the statement delivered by Mr. Palagi to Administrator Whitman on September 7, 2001 on behalf of the CAG is attached below as Appendix 2.

ATSDR Report

Dan Strausbaugh reported on behalf of ATSDR. He stated that in the second round of medical testing, 1,212 people have made appointments for testing and 1,053 have been tested to date. The second round will be completed on September 7, and the toll free telephone number, 1-800-439-8308 will also end after that date. ATSDR is not planning a third round of medical testing. Future testing may occur, but it will be conducted by state and/or local health agencies rather than ATSDR. ATSDR will continue to provide technical assistance to its state and local partners as necessary and appropriate. ATSDR will also work with the Libby community, EPA, and its state and local health partners to identify the appropriate followup medical screening and other health activities in Libby. Finally, Mr. Strausbaugh stated that he will be unable to attend the September 27 CAG meeting due to a prior commitment.

Dr. Aubrey Miller, US Public Heath Service, reported that Deputy Secretary Claud Allen of the US Department of Health and Human Services visited Libby on Wednesday, August 29. Deputy Secretary Allen visited the medical testing clinic and the CARD Clinic and met with asbestos victims and the County Commissioners.

Public Comment

CAG Member Comment - The City Council is scheduled to make a decision about NPL designation this coming Monday night.

CAG Member Comment - We should put up the crosses for each asbestos fatality prior to Administrator Whitman's visit.

Next Meeting

The town hall meeting is scheduled for Thursday, September 27, 2001 from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. in the Ponderosa Room of Libby City Hall.

Appendix 1

CAG Member Attendance List
September 5, 2001


Organization Represented

Don Wilkins

Lumber & Sawmill Workers

K.W. Maki

Libby School District #4

Gayla Benefield


Sandy Wagner

Lincoln County Community Health Center

George Keck

Community Health Center

Rep. Eileen Carney

State Representative

Chris Weis


Paul Peronard

EPA On-Scene Coordinator

George Bauer

City of Libby

Bob Dedrick

Asbestos Victim

Dr. Brad Black

Lincoln County Health Officer/CARD

Clinton Maynard

Area Asbestos Research Group

Cyrus Lee

Kootenai Valley Head Start

Rick Palagi

St. John's Lutheran Hospital

Leroy Thom

Former Grace Employee

Mike Switzer

Asbestos Victim

Norita Skramstad

Asbestos Victim

Kerry Beasley

St. John's Lutheran Hospital

Ron Anderson

Lincoln County

Duc Nguyen

EPA On-Scene Coordinator

Wendy Thomi


Dan Strausbaugh


Wilbur Wilson

Senior Citizens

Appendix 2

CAG Letter, September 6, 2001

Governor Whitman, Governor Martz, Senator Baucus, Senator Bums, Representative Rehberg. On behalf of the Community Advisory Group I want to thank you for coming to Libby today. We must continue to work together to resolve the complicated, multi-faceted issues that are before the residents of south Lincoln County.

We are deeply greatful for the countless hours that you have dedicated on our behalf over the course of the last 21 months. Without your support ATSDR could NOT have completed the screening of nearly 7400 persons in the past 14 modths; we could NOT be assured that our schools are again an environmentally safe haven for our children; we would NOT be in the process of updating our hospital facility with the state of the art medical services required to treat asbestos related disease and we would NOT have the resources available to restore the economic viability of our community. Thank you for responding to our "cry" for help and helping us to forsee a much brighter tomorrow for each and every resident of our community.

The community advisory group has met twice a month for nearly two years to identify the needs and concerns of our friends and neighbors and to serve as a catalyst for finding workable solutions for the many asbestos contamination issues. After long hours of discussion, the mission for the community at large has become very focused and defiiied. South Lincoln County must receive in the most comprehensive, efficient and timely manner possbile an EPA clean bill of health and we must identify, co-ordinate and fund the long term health care needs of our men, women, and children.

As you research the alternatives for addressing these many issues, one of which is the NPL listing, we would ask your consideration of the following provisions:

1. We must assure both public and private landowners whether it be of a business or residential nature that they will be held harmless in respects to any and all costs associated with the contamination clean-up process and furthermore that they will be adequately protected from the possibility that they be named in a "third party liability" claim situation initiated by WR Grace.
2. Property owners who request the removal of the Zonolite insulation product from their particular premise must be assured that the removal of the contaminate and all required restoration is done at no cost to them.
3. We must insure that State and local resources are identified, trained and funded to insure adequate operational maintenance of the site for the next several decades.

If your final decision is that the NPL listing is the most comprehensive, effective approach to bringing resolution to this tragedy, the community has the following recommendations:

1. Within the NPL listing designate two separate operable sites-(1) the mine and Rainy Creek drainage site and.(2) the remainder of south Lincoln County. By using this, approach it is realistic that the south Lincoln County area can be cleaned up in a relatively short period of time and declared "absolutely" environmentally safe. At this point in time the mine site and the Rainy Creek drainage areas appear to be very long term, ongoing maintenance operations.
2. Consider a 2 year time frame for the south Lincoln County superfund phase. Past work performance under the emergency management response procedures, indicate that clean-up is happening contemporaneously with the investigative process.
3. Discuss with Governor Martz and this community the "silver bullet" option for determining NPL eligibility. The Code of Federal Regulations states that a release i-nay be included on the NPL if the release meets one of the following criteria. Criteria item #2 states "a State (not including Indian tribes) has designated a release as its highest priority. States may make only one such designation;" It is our understanding that Montana has never invoked this option and therefore it is a very viable option for expediting the clean-up process.
4. Continue to aggressively encourage and support a coordinated approach among all the federal, state, and local agencies, EPA, ATSDR, HHS, The Montana Department of Environmental Quality and the Lincoln County Commissioners. It is vital that these agencies maintain a focused effort in bringing resolution to our environmental and healthcare concerns.

In closing, we want to again thank all of you for being an active part of the solution to this very personal tragedy. Words cannot adequately express our appreciation for the work that has been done to date by the many supporting agencies, EPA, HHS, & OSHA. We want to especially acknowledge the "Region 8" team that have worked so closely with us these past many months. It is our sincerest hope that you will keep this very competent team of professionals here until the project is completed.

Their dedication and commitment have brought confidence to the community that there will be "closure" to this issue and that our community will be strengthened by this unfortunate experience. Paul , you and your team, are to be highly commended for your meritorious service to the people of this community.

Signed by:

Sandy Wagner/ Lincoln County Community Health Center
George Keck/ Community Health Center
K.W. Maki/ Libby School District #4
Clinton Maynard/ Area Asbestos Research Group
Cyrus Lee/ Kootenai Valley Head Start
Kerry Beasley/ St. John's Lutheran Hospital
Bob Dedrick/ Asbestos Victim
George Bauer/ City of Libby
Ron Anderson/ Lincoln County
Mike Switzer/ Asbestos Victim
Rick Palagi/ St. John's Lutheran Hospital
Leroy Thom/ Former Grace Employee
Gayla Benefield/ LCAVRO
Wilbur Wilson/ Senior Citizens
Norita Skramstad/ Asbestos Victim
Rep. Eileen Carney/ Montana State Legislature
Dr. Brad Black/ Lincoln County Health Officer/CARD
Don Wilkins/ Lumber & Sawmill Workers

Photos courtesy of Dudley Dana, Dana Gallery