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Libby Community Advisory Group
Meeting Summary

December 12, 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.

Moment of Silence

Michael Crill requested that the CAG begin each meeting with a moment of silence on behalf of members from the Libby community who have died of asbestos disease. Some CAG members stated that this activity would not be appropriate for each CAG meeting. The CAG did not agree to Mr. Crill's request.


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

Public Comment

EPA Report

Jim Christiansen and Wendy Thomi reported on behalf of EPA on the following subjects.

Residential Cleanups - Jim Christiansen reminded the CAG that at the last meeting he reported that the residential cleanup work was behind schedule because the cleanups had been costing too much and taking too long. Five additional residences have been cleaned by a different contractor. These jobs were easier, quicker to complete, and more representative of the remaining residential cleanups. The average cleanup cost for these five residences was about $50 thousand, substantially less than the $230 thousand per house cost reported at the November meeting. Two additional residential cleanups that did not require relocation of residents are underway, and the costs for them will be about $30 thousand each. The residential cleanup costs are dropping as is the time required. Indoor cleanup of two commercial buildings is also underway. Assuming that the cost remains lower, additional residential cleanups will begin in January. Mr. Christiansen reported receiving $5 million of additional funding since the November CAG meeting. This money will be used for pre-design work to plan additional cleanups. To date, the cleanup work has been done by the Emergency Response Program contractor, Environmental Restoration. Mr. Christiansen plans to select a new contractor next spring through a bidding process which should also lower cleanup costs.

Audience Member Question - What is happening at the site of the former Rain Tree Nursery?
Answer - Since the activities at this side to date have been carried out under the Emergency Response Program managed by Paul Peronard, Mr. Christiansen was not sure.

Audience Member Comment - Rather than clean houses at a cost of $230 thousand, EPA should buy out the homeowners.
Response - The $230 thousand cost was for cleanup of a residence with a large amount of contaminated soil and complex indoor contamination which will not be representative of Libby residential cleanups. The last five residential cleanups cost only $50 thousand, and EPA hopes and expects the cost to continue to drop. In very isolated cases, EPA may consider a buyout and moving a family to another house; however, EPA would still face cleaning the contaminated house or demolishing it. EPA does not want to be in this situation.

CAG Member Question - Do you expect any more expensive residential cleanups?
Answer - Perhaps. EPA cannot just condemn houses. We would still face either cleaning the contaminated house or demolishing it.

CAG Member Question - Have you priced demolishing a house?
Answer - No, we have done only a back of the envelope estimate. Demolition would require moving the occupants, sampling, abating dust to prevent spread of contamination, and disposing of contaminated materials in addition to the actual demolition.

CAG Member Question - Why are you changing contractors?
Answer - The existing contractor was retained under the Emergency Response Program. Emergency work tends to be more expensive and less flexible than we want for the remediation work. Once we can develop a scope of work for the remediation residential cleanups we can hire a contractor via competitive bids and save money. Once we have hired firms under the new system, we don't intend to be changing contractors.

Audience Member Comment - I have had a hard time paying property taxes on contaminated property.
Response - EPA does not get involved in property tax issues.
CAG Member Response - You can get help from the County Assessor's Office.

Audience Member Question - After a cleanup, does EPA issue a letter stating that the property is clean?
Answer - Yes. EPA issues a letter specifying what was cleaned and what, if any, contamination issue remains and how the homeowner can address it.

CAG Member Question - How many homes have you cleaned this year?
Answer - Seventeen homes.

Audience Member Question - When the Governor used her silver bullet option for adding Libby to the Super Fund National Priority List, weren't we promised that money would not be a problem?
Answer - Libby is the highest priority Superfund site cleanup in the country. Libby receives more money than any other site in Region 8. Providing these funds is hard on the Region 8 budget which has been cut. Work at other sites has been postponed to fund Libby.

Audience Member Question - Why is it necessary to file a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to learn what is paid to specific contractors?
Answer - A FOIA request should not be needed. EPA's cost information is public. Mr. Christiansen began giving the CAG the residential cleanup cost information last meeting. However, we want to give the information out in a meaningful, clear manner. We are working on developing per house cleanup cost information which must be sorted out from contractor invoices.

CAG Member Question - Newspaper reports indicate that EPA has spent $60 million in Libby. How much of that is for work at the Rain Tree Nursery site?
Answer - I have not seen a break out of the Rain Tree site costs, but I would expect it to be in the millions of dollars.

Audience Member Comment - The screening plant cleanup is 85% finished. As the owner of the former Rain Tree Nursery, we have been out of business for three years and are entering our fourth. We have lost contracts with our nursery supplier. We do not control what happens on our property, EPA does. We understand that EPA has had contractor problems.
Response - EPA has had contractor problems on this site, and work this construction season began late. EPA intends to wrap up the remaining 15 % efficiently and competently.

CAG Member Question - What work remains?
Audience Member Answer - Our well is contaminated and must be replaced. More ag fill is apparently needed. Electrical power must be restored to the site. Revegetation work along the river must be finished.
Answer by EPA Contractor - We need to replace the well and some top soil. We should be finished in two to three months.

CAG Member Question (to Lerah Parker) - From whom have you received compensation for loss of your home and business, EPA or W.R. Grace?
Answer - We have received money after three years from EPA; we have received nothing from W.R. Grace. Our cash payment was about one half of the appraised value of the property demolished.

CAG Member Question - How much did you receive for your house?
Audience Member Answer - Our home was three years old when it was demolished. The house was originally $122 thousand, and we received $89 thousand for it.

Audience Member Question - What sampling was done at the Stimson mill, what was the purpose of the sampling, and when will the results be available?
Answer - EPA sampled air, dust, and soils to get a snapshot of possible asbestos exposures. Some mill personnel wore air samplers. Stimson has had a draft report on the sampling results since the Friday after Thanksgiving. The draft report will be available to the public at the Information Center on December 23. The report will not be finalized until the soil sample results are available. Generally, we found asbestos in the insulation, buildings, and dust. The amount in the dust did not exceed OSHA standards. The sampling results did not indicate an emergency situation. No clean up plans have been developed yet.

CAG Member Question - Do the OSHA standards which were not exceeded take into account fiber size?
Answer - No. The OSHA standards do not address fiber size or toxicity. EPA in the risk assessment is attempting to develop Libby specific information.

Audience Member Question - An effort is underway to try to purchase the mill to keep it open. If someone buys it, can EPA clean it up fast?
Answer - The maintenance building cleanup will be complicated. Funding is the restricting factor for the clean up time. During the next couple of months, EPA will develop a cleanup budget.

CAG Member Question - I previously worked in the Stimson mill. In 1983, insulation around the dryers was encased in concrete. Workers regularly walk on the dryers and maybe exposed to asbestos. Has EPA sampled the dryer insulation?
Answer - No, but we know that the insulation contains asbestos.
Answer by CAG Member - The dryers are cleaned every Tuesday. Workers walk on and hose them down. The OSHA standards allow workers to be legally poisoned throughout their career. OSHA compliance does not guarantee that they won't get sick.

Sampling and Screening - As reported at the last CAG meeting, some 3,500 commercial and residential properties have been screened. Results of the soil sampling is not yet available because of the need to develop new analytical techniques. This development is going well. Accurate results are being obtained down to 0.1% asbestos. Soil sampling results should be coming in over the next few months.

CAG Member List - Wendy Thomi reported that she has recently published in the newspaper a revised list of CAG members with their telephone numbers and addresses so that they can be contacted by community members. However, some confusion has resulted from the way this information was published. For example, Kerry Beasley was listed as the Board Chair for St. John's Lutheran Hospital, but some people have interpreted this information as chair of the CAG. The CAG has no chair person. In a future Q & A published in the local newspapers, EPA will clarify how the CAG is run and how someone can become a member. Ms. Thomi asked that CAG members or others please call her or Linda Newstrom at the EPA Information Center to pass along questions from members of the community.

ATSDR Report

Dan Strausbaugh reported on behalf of ATSDR on the following subjects.
Public Health Assessment - The ATSDR Public Health Assessment will be released for public comment this month. Copies of the assessment will be mailed from Atlanta to CAG members. Others can pick up copies from the EPA Information Center. The comment period will last thirty to forty-five days. Comments can be mailed to Atlanta or sent to Mr. Strausbaugh. The assessment's author, Jill Dyken, will present the study and its results to the CAG at its February meeting.

Community-Tribal Subcommittee to ATSDR Superfund Advisory Committee - Sandy Wagner has been appointed to the ATSDR Community-Tribal Subcommittee. Her term will last four years.

Montana Asbestos Screening and Surveillance Activity (MASSA) - Dr. Spence, who had a schedule conflict and was unable to attend tonight's CAG meeting, asked Mr. Strausbaugh to convey that the MASSA office location has been selected and is 635 Mineral Avenue. The office space is being refurbished and is expected to be staffed and open to the public on January 6, 2003. Medical testing at this office will begin after the testing protocol is approved.

CAG Member Question - Won't the MASSA office and the CARD Clinic being doing the same thing?
Answer - MASSA and the CARD Clinic will not duplicate services. MASSA will conduct medical testing similar to the two rounds conducted by ATSDR. The CARD Clinic provides treatment, follow-up, and consultation to people with asbestos disease.

CAG Member Question - You said that the medical testing that the MASSA office will conduct will be similar to that conducted here by ATSDR. How many "B-Readers" will MASSA use and how many did ATSDR use?
Answer - The MASSA tests will provide the same public health function as did the ATSDR tests, screening people for signs of asbestos disease. Neither provided actual diagnosis. The ATSDR work involved three B-Readers, and MASSA will use only one.

CAG Member Comment - The CT study indicated that the three B-readers in the ATSDR testing missed 30% of the people who had asbestos disease.
Response - While I can't speak for Dr. Spence, he has said here that he is using only one B-reader to save money so that more people can be screened. In the MASSA program, people who do not show signs of disease will continue to be tested annually, so that the disease should not be missed.

CAG Member Comment - I have a problem with Libby being on the cheap plan. When it comes to people's health, there shouldn't be a cost effectiveness test.

Tremolite Asbestos Registry - Mr. Strausbaugh introduced to ATSDR officials from Atlanta that are managing the Tremolite Asbestos Registry (Registry), Dr. Ginger Gist, Chief of Exposure and Disease Registry, and Ted Larson, who will directly oversee the Registry. Both Dr. Gist and Mr. Larson were in Libby last summer. Mr. Larson gave a Power Point presentation explaining the purpose of the registry and how it will be compiled. A copy of his presentation is included below in Appendix 2 (54 KB, PDF). Mr. Larson and Dr. Gist then took comments and questions.

CAG Member Comment - The ATSDR medical testing was accompanied with a lot of advertising, so people understand its purpose. That has not been true with the Registry. For this reason when I was called apparently by the Registry contractor, I was concerned that the call was deceptive telemarketing.
Response - We have not attempted advertising during the first phase of the Registry development when we are simply attempting to trace people. We were concerned that doing so would create confusion with the medical testing program.

CAG Member Comment - From our perspective, the previous ATSDR medical testing looks the same as the Registry survey, so we will always be confused.

CAG Member Comment - Why don't you use the information from the previous ATSDR medical testing to compile the Registry, so that those of us who were tested need not be called again?
Response - Medical testing data will be used to compile the registry for non-workers and non-household contacts. Because so few workers and household contacts took part in the medical testing program, we are currently in the process of identifying and locating these people only. Workers and household contacts that participated in medical testing are being contacted again because the medical testing and tracing surveys differ.

CAG Member Comment - I was called and asked for my Social Security number. We have been warned repeatedly not to give Social Security numbers over the telephone, and I will not do so.
Response - The contractor collecting data for the tracing project requests a Social Security number to ensure the identity of the person being called. Participation in the tracing project is voluntary and anyone has the right to not answer any or all questions, including Social Security number. However, know that all information collected for the tracing project will be kept confidential. ATSDR takes confidentiality seriously, and has requested that a Federal Certificate of Confidentiality for the project.

CAG Member Question - What will be the benefits of compiling the Registry?
Answer - The Registry will provide important information. For example through registries associated with other exposure to other toxic substances, we were able to identify speech and hearing deficits in children under the age of ten. That such deficits occurred due to exposure to the chemicals involved was not previously known. It will also allow us to provide information to people who may have been exposed to asbestos in Libby. Unfortunately, ATSDR is not funded to provide medical care through the Registry.

CAG Member Question - Are there examples of other ATSDR registries?
Answer - Yes. In 1989, a registry was compiled because of exposure to trichloroethylene and dioxin. In 1992, we established separate registries for people exposed through drinking water to two solvents, benzene and 1-1-1-trichloroethane.

Audience Member Comment - I could easily record my interview without ATSDR's knowledge and then use the information to call others and obtain their personal identification information for some fraudulent scheme.

CAG Member Question - Are there other means besides the telephone that we can provide information for the Registry?
Answer - We will consider other means such as going to the MASSA office for an interview.

CAG Member Question - Why don't you ask us how we might help you develop the Registry?
Answer - We have sought assistance through the working group on which Dr. Black and Dr. Spence serve.

Audience Member Question - I have been called four times. I have requested information from the caller who was unable to provide any. Why doesn't ATSDR mail out the tracing questions to us ahead of time?
Answer - The scientific community would be concerned about the validity of the tracing responses if the questions are previously supplied. We must ask everyone the same questions under the same conditions.

Tobacco Prevention

Barbara Guthneck, Director of Libby Interagencies, INC, reported on behalf of Lincoln County's tobacco prevention activities. The State of Montana is currently receiving about $30 million annually from the settlement of the litigation against the tobacco companies. Of the $30 million, the legislature allocated only $500 thousand for tobacco prevention and cessation programs for 2001 and $400 thousand in 2002. The level of funding caused the Montana Department of Health and Human Services to fund only those communities working to change policies for indoor air. No moneys could be spent on tobacco prevention or cessation. However, in the last election, the voters passed an initiative setting up a trust which will restrict the legislature's use of the tobacco settlement funds. It calls for funding tobacco prevention programs at the minimum level recommended by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, $9.3 million annually. If the Legislature follows the voters' direction, they will appropriate this amount for a comprehensive tobacco prevention/cessation program. Ms. Guthneck urged everyone to contact their legislators and ask them to support protecting children from the tobacco companies and to provide help for those who want to quit using tobacco. Ms. Guthneck introduced Kerry Croucher, an AmeriCorp-Vista Volunter. Ms. Croucher is organizing a coalition of agencies, organizations, and people interested in tobacco prevention and cessation. She has contacted all agencies, organizations, and businesses that are interested in tobacco issues in south Lincoln County and has written a business plan for sustaining a tobacco prevention web page.

CARD Clinic Report

Because of the lateness of the hour, Pat Cohan and Dr. Brad Black reported briefly on behalf of the CARD Clinic. Ms. Cohan asked that anyone receiving a bill from the CARD Clinic for $31.90 to please contact her. These bills will not need to be paid. Dr. Black stated that the CARD Board in conjunction with Dr. Whitehouse is seeking funding to support research.

Public Comment

There was no additional public comment.

Next Meeting

The next meeting is scheduled for Thursday, December 12, 2002 at 7:00 p.m. in the Ponderosa Room of Libby City Hall.

Appendix 1

CAG Member & Guest Attendance List
December 12, 2002


Group/Organization Represented

Norita Skramstad

Asbestos Victim

Robert H. Foote

Libby Ministerial Association

Gayla Benefield


Leroy Thom

Former W.R. Grace employee

Dan Strausbaugh


Rick Palagi

St. John's Lutheran Hospital

Jim Christiansen


Craig French

Montana Department of Environmental Quality

David Latham

The Montanian Newspaper

Don Wilkins

Lumber & Sawmill Workers

Bob Dedrick

Asbestos Victim

Ken Hays

Senior Citizens

Dr. Brad Black

Lincoln County Health Officer/CARD

Mike Switzer

Asbestos Victim

George Keck

Technical Advisory Group

Sandy Wagner

Community Health Center

Rick Flesher

Asbestos Victim

Clinton Maynard

Area Asbestos Research Group

Rep. Eileen Carney

State Representative

Wendy Thomi

EPA Community Involvement Coordinator

Gary D. Swenson

Libby Fire Department


Dr. Ginger Gist

Chief of Exposure and Disease Registry for ATSDR

Ted Larson

ATSDR Chief Investigator for Libby

Barbara Guthneck

Director of Libby Interagencies, INC.

Kerry Croucher

AmeriCorp Vista Volunteer

Photos courtesy of Dudley Dana, Dana Gallery