Accessible Navigation. Go to: Navigation Main Content Footer

Libby Community Advisory Group
Meeting Summary

April 11, 2002


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


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

Public Comment

Senator Baucus Letter

Mayor Berget read a letter from Senator Baucus announcing that the Superfund Subcommittee of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will hold a hearing on May 2, 2002 in Washington DC. The hearing will address the status of the cleanup in Libby and of the insulation removal from Libby homes and businesses.

EPA Report

Jim Christiansen and Wendy Thomi reported on behalf of EPA.

Jim Christiansen, Superfund Remedial Project Manager

Determination of a Public Health Emergency in Libby

The EPA team is still waiting on the decision about the public health emergency in about a week. The team continues to plan as if the decision will be in the affirmative so that no time will be lost if EPA makes the determination.

Superfund Emergency Removal and Remedial Programs

Mr. Christiansen presented an overview of the Remedial Program, including a comparison between it and emergency response (removal) activities that have been underway in Libby for about the past two and a half years. Copies of Mr. Christiansen's presentation will be available at the EPA Information Center.

Emergency response is generally simple and quick and occurs when contamination is highly toxic and presents an immediate threat to public health. No formal risk assessment normally occurs and public involvement is informal. The Remedial Program handles sites included on the Superfund National Priority List (NPL). These sites are generally more complex and less toxic than sites at which removals are conducted. Figure 1 outlines the steps in both removal and remediation cases.

In the remedial investigation step under the Remedial Program sampling occurs to determine the nature, i.e. what and where, of the contamination. The record of decision is similar to the removal program action memo step. The risk assessment often assumes that one additional cancer per 10,000 people due to the contamination is too much. Nine criteria are used to select the cleanup plan, including community and state acceptance and cost.

Figure 1

Removal Program Steps

Remedial Program Steps


Site assessment

Action memo

Remedial investigation

Money is available

Risk assessment


Feasibility study

Proposed plan

Record of decision

Remedial design

Before any Superfund moneys can be spent on a site it must be formally added to the Superfund NPL. Once listing occurs, a panel at EPA headquarters ranks the site among those already on the NPL. The ranking determines the order in which sites are addressed. Figure 2 lists the steps after the remedial design step in Figure 1 progressing to removal from the NPL.

Figure 2

Remedial Program Steps Continued



Operation and Maintenance

5 Year Review

NPL Deletion

Removal of the site from the NPL occurs when the remedial is completed and the site is cleaned up. It can occur prior to the first five year review. Deletion can occur for all or a portion of a site.

CAG Member Question - Is maintenance a step of the removal program?

Answer - Emergency removal actions are short-term in nature, and provisions for maintenance are not required.

CAG Member Question - How long until the first truck load of material is removed in Libby under the remediation program?

Answer - The process has started. You will not see a break in cleanup between the removal and remediation programs.

Audience Member Question - At other sites, maintenance of cleanups has included local ordinances. Will you require an ordinance here?

Answer - The state is responsible for maintenance after Superfund cleanups have occurred. EPA cannot force the adoption of local ordinances. Ordinances or similar approaches may be considered here, but will be discussed thoroughly early in the process.

Audience Member Comment - The County is concerned with maintenance that may involve the City and the County. We are concerned that the maintenance costs not fall back on local taxpayers. Please keep this in mind.

Where Are We With the Cleanup in Libby?

Removal Program - The removal effort is continuing as information and money is available. The focus of removal is on the highly contaminated spots.

Remedial Program - Libby has been formally proposed by Governor Martz for inclusion on the NPL with two operable units, the mine and the city. The remedial investigation is underway and is building on work in the removal program. This year a transition from the removal to the remediation program will take place. Next year investigation of the mine and Rainy Creek Road will begin.

This year, beginning in May, EPA contractors will screen all of the three thousand properties, including both businesses and residences, in the two hundred square miles of the Libby valley for contamination. Several contractor teams of two people will conduct the screening in a systematic manner. The plan is to screen twenty-five properties per day. Business and residence owners will not need to contact EPA on their own for screening. The teams will circulate flyers so that appointments can be set. If someone suspects contamination or has other special circumstances such as health concerns or a property sale, she or he can call the EPA Information Center. Screening will be voluntary, i.e. it will require permission from the property owner. The purpose of the screening is to place the property in one of three categories: a lot of contamination and removal is clearly required; some contamination and additional sampling is required; and no contamination and no additional action is required. Results of the screening will be mailed; face to face reporting will be rare.

The screening will consist of three steps:

1. A visual inspection will be made outside and inside of the property. The outside inspection will examine the yard and garden. The inside inspection will look for vermiculite insulation. Work will begin outside and move inside.
2. The property owner or resident will be interviewed to determine if the household includes miners or people sick with asbestos-related disease.
3. Soil will be sampled using infrared spectroscopy (detection limit 0.1% asbestos) backed up with scanning electron microscopy (detection limit 0.01% asbestos).

EPA will look for asbestos only where asbestos is likely to be present and to be disturbed. EPA will not, for example, look under drive ways or at depth under the ground surface. EPA will provide information for the operation and maintenance phase about what to do if contamination is found later through activities such as digging.

If the screening finds no visible contamination or nearby sources, no Zonolite insulation, the survey finds no indication of contamination or sick people, and the soil samples are negative, then EPA will issue a letter to the property owner stating that the property is clean. We expect that the vast majority of properties will be clean. Properties may be visited more that once to complete the screening and followup sampling may occur. If sampling detects asbestos contamination cleanup may not proceed immediately.

CAG Member Question - What happens if a property owner refuses access to EPA?

Answer - If access is refused, EPA won't sample unless vermiculite is clearly visible and is likely to pose a risk to the public. If such as risk appears to exist, EPA will pursue access by any means necessary.

Audience Member Question - Will EPA be looking at all buildings on a property or just houses?

Answer - We will look at buildings used actively such as garages and pump houses. We will look at others such as storage sheds if there is a reason to do so.

CAG Member Comment - I have been informed about a house that is for sale that is being described as clean because an EPA test did not find more than 1% asbestos.

Response - The clean assumption is wrong. The 1% value is not the proper standard.

CAG Member Question -What should the prospective home buyer in this case do?

Answer - Contact EPA. EPA is working with realtors so they know that EPA is not using the 1% action level as a clean standard.

CAG Member Question - Will the infrared spectroscopy detect other amphiboles than tremolite?

Answer - The infrared spectroscopy will be calibrated to detect only Libby amphiboles. We will not be looking for chrysotile asbestos.

CAG Member Question - Can this detection method find asbestos under vegetation?

Answer - Yes. For example, grass can be scraped off. Samples will be prepped and analyzed off-site.

CAG Member Question - Will the EPA contractors doing the screening have identification and will they be wearing respirators?

Answer - They will wear badges identifying them as EPA contractors. Those doing the soil sampling wore protective clothing and half-face respirators last year. Specific details about personnel protection measures for the upcoming sampling are under review. A sampling plan is being drafted and should be finalized next week and available for public review at the EPA Information Center.

Audience Member Question - Where will contaminated material removed go?

Answer - We are planning to use a cell at the County landfill for disposal of insulation and the mine for contaminated soils.

What is the Overall Plan for the Remediation Work?

The contaminant property screening study will be conducted this year, and followup sampling will occur next year. Studies of the cancer risk model are underway. Beginning this year, EPA will fund animal studies will to improve the model used to predict non-cancer risk. The results of these studies will be used in the feasibility study and record of decision which is expected in the winter of 2004. The remediation follow-up cleanups will begin in 2005, and should be completed by 2006-2007.

Audience Member Comment - The County has received inquiries about whether our animal shelter will make animals available for experiments. Shelter animals will not be used in any experiments. Please make it clear that the County animal shelter will not be involved in EPA testing.

Response - The EPA funded studies will likely involve mice. For instance, amphiboles will be injected into the mice lungs and cellular changes observed. Studies are currently being designed. These studies are EPA's alone, and not the County's.

Ambient Air Sampling

Last fall ambient air sampling in town did detect a small number of asbestos fibers, probably related to cleanup activities.

Wendy Thomi

Public Health Emergency Declaration Notification

Once the decision on the declaration is made, EPA will issue a press release, publish a Q&A in the local newspapers, make telephone calls to local officials, and mail an announcement to and/or call the CAG members.

CAG Member Question -Will you use this same notification process if EPA decides against declaring the public health emergency?

Answer - Yes.

Technical Assistance Grant (TAG)

Monday of this week, EPA conducted a conference call with Clinton Maynard and George Keck and members of TAG groups addressing the Anaconda and Clark Fork River/Milltown Dam Superfund sites.

ATSDR Report

Dan Strausbaugh reported on behalf of ATSDR. Over the next year, ATSDR will be conducting the public health assessment required for every proposed NPL site. Information gathered since ATSDR began work in Libby in November 1999 will be included in the assessment. Mr. Strausbaugh introduced two ATSDR personnel from Atlanta who will be contributing to the assessment, Jill Dyken an environmental health scientist and Chris Larson, an education specialist. Ms. Dyken will assess the effect of the asbestos contamination on Libby public health. She will be collecting current and historical environmental and health outcome data to determine asbestos disease pathways and community health concerns. Ms. Larson will be conducting community outreach and education related to asbestos disease. Ms. Larson asked what types of educational activities people in Libby want. Examples of educational activities include school and community health classes and consultations with health care professionals and ministers. Ms. Larson announced that cards containing contact information will be available from Mr. Strausbaugh.

CAG Member Comment - Are we re-inventing the wheel? We have been inundated with information about cancer and subject to several health assessments. I am hesitant to say we need more.

CAG Member Comment - I am concerned that while we are waiting a year for ATSDR's health assessment, our political leaders may put their efforts to find funding for our long-term medical care needs on hold.

Response - We are hoping to complete the assessment sooner than one year. Health and asbestos exposure reports resulting from studies completed previously in Libby (health screening and the cat-scan study) will be completed and made available to the community in the next few months.

State Report

Craig French and Dr. Spence, State Medical Officer, reported on behalf of the state.

Craig French

The state is responsible for funding operation and maintenance of Superfund cleanups. The state is therefore concerned with removing as much contamination as possible during the cleanup to minimize the state's funding obligation for operation and maintenance. The state will be reviewing the EPA sampling plans.

Dr. Spence

Negotiations are ongoing with ATSDR over continuing health care testing. The state also recently participated in a telephone conference call with the Dr Damrow the Montana State epidemiologist and the CDC regarding the assignment of an Epidemiology Investigative Service officer to Montana whose duties could include doing research on the health effects of people exposed to asbestos in Libby.

County Report

Mr. Mueller read a letter from Ron Anderson announcing his resignation from the CAG. A copy of Mr. Anderson's letter is attached as Appendix 2 (PDF file) below.

CAG Member Comment - I am sorry that Mr. Anderson resigned. We will continue to need County representation on the CAG. As the County Health Officer, perhaps Dr. Black will serve this role.

LeRoy Thom stated that apparently at the last CAG meeting some were critical of the inclusion of John Johanson along with Ms. Velazquez and Ron Anderson in the March 27, 2002 meeting with Governor Martz concerning the issue of health funding for Libby. Mr. Thom said that he was asked by Ms. Velazquez to attend the meeting with the Governor, but he was unable to do so. He therefore asked Mr. Johanson to attend so that the Governor could see another face from the Libby community.

CAG Member Comment - During the last CAG meeting, I asked about how the person to replace Mr. Thom was selected. I noted that Mr. Johanson has not attended any CAG meetings and may not be as informed about Libby's long-term health care needs as a CAG member.

Response by Mr. Thom - We should not underestimate the knowledge of people who have not be active in the CAG. We continue to need the involvement of non-CAG members in community issues.

Technical Assistance Grant

Clinton Maynard and George Keck reported on the purpose of a Technical Assistance Grant (TAG) and the process and requirements for applying to EPA for one.

Clinton Maynard

Mr. Maynard stated that the other TAG groups that participated in the conference call reported by Wendy Thomi recommended seeking a TAG. However, applying for a TAG would require the CAG to both incorporate and obtain IRS non-profit status. These requirements would change the CAG's structure and function. He therefore asked the CAG to consider supporting a different group that might include CAG members and other members of the community to apply for and administer a TAG.

CAG Member Question - Do you have a definite plan for expending TAG funds?

Answer- At this point, no. If a grant application is submitted, we would have to develop one. Before doing so, we want to assess the interest and support for a TAG.

CAG Member Comment - Rather than another advisory group, I would prefer that money be spend on actual cleanup.

George Keck

Using a flip chart, Mr. Keck presented the following information concerning a TAG.

Mission of a TAG group - Ensure satisfactory Superfund remedial action through community involvement and participation in EPA's cleanup process.

Benefit - Every community member within the Superfund site area will have technical/legal expertise and insight not otherwise acquired for EPA cleanup issues.

  • Opportunities for community involvement in the EPA process:
  • Remedial Investigation and feasibility study
    Remedy identification and selection
    Ongoing operation and maintenance
  • Opportunities for participation in EPA decisions:
  • Review and comment
    Education and communication
  • Expense reimbursement
  • $50,000 maximum for the initial period to reimburse the TAG group expenditures.
    3 years maximum for the initial period
    20% minimum matching requirement (can be dollars or in-kind services)
    20% maximum of the grant can reimburse administrative expenditures
  • Grant requirements
  • NPL site with response action underway
    Group must include representatives of affected interests (individuals and groups)
    Letter of intent and/or
    Complete application
    Certification of incorporation as IRS non-profit corporation
    Demonstrate capabilities
  • Incorporation criteria
  • IRS 501(c)(3) non-profit status
    Articles of incorporation with TAG as purpose
    Board of directors with elected officers and members
    Regular and annual meetings
  • TAG project overview
  • The CAG would participate in a TAG Steering Committee
    The TAG Steering Committee would apply for incorporation, the 501(c)(3) status, and the grant
    The TAG corporation would include a board of directors that would oversee administration of the TAG and provide feedback to the CAG
    The TAG corporation would provide the following services: investigation, review/comment, remedial satisfaction, education/communication, and ongoing support

CAG Member Question - EPA is already providing many of these services. Would a TAG be redundant?

Answer - No. The TAG would provide an opportunity to be reimbursed for expenses necessary to support community involvement in EPA processes not afforded by the CAG.

CAG Member Comment - If the CAG incorporated as a non-profit, it could no longer lobby.

Audience Member Comment - Why not shelve the TAG now and apply if we need it later.

Response by Wendy Thomi - If the CAG chooses not to apply now for a TAG, another group in the Libby community could. Only one TAG is made per community.

Audience Member Question - What do the TAG groups at other sites do?

Answer - They review technical documents for the community as a part of the Superfund process. The TAG acts as a check and balance on EPA.

Audience Member Comment - Are we so uncomfortable with EPA that we need outside reviews?

CAG Member Question - Someone mentioned the possibility of using a TAG to purchase equipment to film CAG meetings. Has the school district purchased the equipment yet?

Answer by Kirby Maki - No. We have not yet found money to do so.

CAG Member Comment - I am concerned that we would apply for money just because it is available. Because of the cutting edge nature of the work underway in Libby, we would have to educate any technical advisor that we might hire through a TAG.

Response by Jim Christiansen - TAG funds would not have to be used only for assessing cutting edge topics. Other uses are possible.

CAG Member Question - If contamination was found at my home requiring extensive cleanup, could TAG funds be used to hire an attorney that would help me negotiate a settlement with EPA?

Answer by Wendy Thomi - TAG grants cannot be used to underwrite legal action or new research. It can be used to help communities interpret technical information.

Audience Member Question - Who would receive the administration fee?

Answer - The Butte TAG group hired a part-time administrator for $5,000 per year to document grant expenditures and write reports to EPA.

CAG Action - The CAG voted 10 to 5 to support establishment of a group separate from the CAG to apply for and administer a TAG.

CAG Meeting Frequency

Mr. Mueller began the discussion by noting that at the March 28, 2002 meeting, the CAG voted to change its meeting frequency to one per month. However, because many CAG members were absent, those present at the March meeting agreed that this decision should be revisited.

CAG Member Comment - The last few meetings have not been attended by the full complement of CAG members, in part because not much has been happening regarding the cleanup. However, when the public health emergency is declared and cleanup starts up again, then more people will come to CAG meetings to ask questions.

Audience Member Comment - This is where you go to ask questions. When work starts again, we will need CAG meetings.

CAG Member Comment - Beginning in February 2000, the GAC has gotten a lot done. This group is responsible for Governor Martz' use of the "silver bullet" to add Libby to the NPL. The GAG helped to stimulate formation of the Community Health Center and the Asbestos-Related Disease Health Care Trust.

CAG Member Comment - CAG members need not attend every CAG meeting.

CAG Member Comment - I feel obligated to attend every CAG meeting.

Comment by Jim Christiansen - I suggest that if the CAG chooses to meet once per month, that the federal team could provide an availability session on what would have been the second CAG meeting date in which team members could answer questions from the public.

CAG Action - After asking for a vote of the audience (14 to 10 in favor of one meeting per month), the CAG voted overwhelmingly to meet once per month with the possibility of calling a second meeting if necessary. The CAG will therefore meet regularly on the second Thursday of each month. (NOTE: The May CAG meeting was previously scheduled for May 16 rather than May 9.) The EPA team will hold an availability session on the fourth Thursday of each month. The first availability session is scheduled for April 25.

CAG Member Comment

Gayla Benefield stated that Senator Baucus' Office had not received the letter as of the first part of this week that Mr. Mueller mailed on the CAG's behalf on March 19, 2002. She suggested that in the future when sending letters to Montana's Congressional delegation that the sender first call the Congressional office, then fax the letter, and then mail a hard copy. Mr. Mueller agreed to follow this procedure.

Jim Christiansen announced that Chris Weis is taking a different position in EPA, but will continue to work on Libby issues by supporting EPA litigation.

Public Comment

No other public comments were made.

Next Meeting

The next meeting is scheduled for May16, 2002 from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. in the Ponderosa Room of Libby City Hall.

Appendix 1

CAG Member & Guest Attendance List
April 11, 2002


Group/Organization Represented

K.W. Maki

Libby School District #4

Sandy Wagner

Community Health Center (CHC)

Franklin Mills


George Keck


Craig French

Montana DEQ

Mike Switzer

Asbestos Victim

Bob Dedrick

Asbestos Victim

George Bauer

City of Libby

Kenneth Hays

Senior Citizens

Wendy Thomi

EPA Community Involvement

Jim Christiansen

EPA Remedial Project Manager

LeRoy Thom

Former Grace Employee

Gayla Benefield


Eileen Carney

State Representative

Dan Strausbaugh


Gary D. Swenson

Libby Volunteer Fire Department

Clinton Maynard

Area Asbestos Research Group

David F. Latham

The Montanian Newspaper

Dr. Brad Black

CARD Clinic/Lincoln County Health Officer

Norita Skramstad

Asbestos Victim

Kerry Beasley

St. John's Lutheran Hospital

Appendix 2

Resignation from the CAG (pdf format)

Photos courtesy of Dudley Dana, Dana Gallery