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Libby Community Advisory Group
Meeting Summary

February 28, 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. The CAG welcomed two new members, Gary D. Swenson representing Libby Volunteer Fire Department and Franklin (Mick).


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

Public Comment

EPA Report

Paul Peronard, Wendy Thomi, and Jim Christiansen reported on behalf of EPA.

Paul Peronard

Superfund Designation

The notice of the proposal to add Libby to the Superfund National Priorities List was published in the Federal Register on February 26, 2002. This notice begins the 60 day comment period on the listing. Since Governor Martz requested the listing using her "Silver Bullet" authority, the comments must be on the appropriateness on the Governor's action. EPA must respond to all germane comments.

Remediation Prime Contractor

EPA's prime contractor for the remediation work, Montgomery-Watson, is setting up shop in Libby. The contractor is compiling lists of contractors for a bidding list for cleanup actions.

Resumption of Cleanup Activity

April 15 is the mobilization date for resuming cleanup work. Work will begin with closing out activities underway last year including restoration at the high school and middle school tracks, at the screening plant and export plant sites, eight residential properties, and the KDC flyway property. Work at the screening plant site will address the bed of Rainy Creek. At the export plant, EPA will clean the Millwork West planer and then W.R. Grace will move it to a new location and will demolish the old planer building. W.R. Grace will then install a new water line to the export plant site and turn the property over to the City of Libby. Movement of the planer should occur in June, and restoration work on the site should be completed two months afterwards. At the KDC Flyway property, some 60 to 70 thousand cubic feet of contaminated soil will be moved to the mine Movement of the soils will begin on May 1 and will require about ten weeks to finish. Restoration of the site should be completed this summer. Last year vermiculite ore and tailings were covered on eight residential properties. Removal of the vermiculite material and its transportation to the mine should begin in early spring.

BN Property

BN and EPA are sampling BN property. BN will conduct the cleanups pursuant to a cleanup agreement with EPA. Cleanup will begin this summer starting with the two railroad tracks closest to the river.

Stimson Property

The Stimson mill property includes the location of a former expansion plant. A sampling plan is being developed. EPA intends to resolve Stimson's cleanup liability before cleanup begins.

CAG Member Question - Will EPA hold Stimson liable for cleanup costs?

Answer - Our initial view is that we will not seek to recover costs from Stimson as a responsible party. Generally we do not offer large corporations the innocent land owner defense. They are expected to execute due diligence before acquiring contaminated property. However, we are attempting to negotiate an agreement with Stimson about cleaning up its property without designating it as a party responsible for cleanup costs.

CAG Member Question - Will W.R. Grace demolish the planer building at the export plant site?

Answer - Yes.

Audience Member Question and Comment - Will EPA oversee the W.R. Grace work? We will be watching both the EPA and the W.R. Grace contractor.

Answer - W.R. Grace will be responsible for the work pursuant to a cleanup order.

CAG Member Question - Who will pay for moving the planer to the new location?

Answer - W.R. Grace will pay, not Millwork West. W.R. Grace may try to recover costs from EPA.

CAG Member Question - EPA removed a lot of contaminated material from the first ball park. Have you checked out the second ball park too?

Answer - Yes, we have sampled the second ball park. We did not find contamination at or near the surface. Our first priority has been sites with surface contamination. Although we do not expect to find asbestos below the surface, additional sampling at depth will be part of the Superfund remediation activities.

Zonolite Insulation Removal

EPA has not yet made a decision on the removal of Zonolite insulation from Libby homes and businesses. We expect a decision in two weeks. The unit of EPA that regulates asbestos, the Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxic Substances, recently came out in opposition to the insulation removal in Libby. We expect a decision by Administrator Whitman by March 18.

Mr. Peronard stated that because he remains optimistic that the Administrator will favor insulation removal, he is moving forward with preparation to do so. Contractors are being asked to scope the removal work. Libby commercial buildings are expected to be the most difficult challenge, and a work plan will be necessary for each building. To gain experience, EPA may begin removing insulation from the Eagle Building because it is empty.

CAG Member Question - How will you address concrete block walls in which insulation was poured into the blocks?

Answer - Block walls may be the hardest to address. We may use a vacuum truck to vacuum insulation from the block walls and follow up with a foam sealant to bind residual contamination. In general, clean up in attics will be more vigorous than walls because the potential exposure to asbestos fibers is greater in attics. In some commercial buildings, asbestos fibers may be in plaster and the mortar and chinking. In these instances, we will likely seal the contaminated areas rather than remove all asbestos containing materials.

CAG Member Question - What arrangements have you made for disposal of the contaminated materials?

Answer - We will likely build a cell at the county land fill. Assuming the Administrator decides in favor of removal, insulation removal will begin in late June.

Wendy Thomi

Wendy Thomi stated that copies of the Federal Register Notice of the Superfund NPL proposal and a press release announcing it are available at the EPA Information Center. People who wish to comment on the proposal may bring their comments to the Information Center, and EPA will send them along. Ms. Thomi also stated that Tracy Velazquez did a great job writing the Environmental Justice grant request and that it was filed before the deadline.

Jim Christiansen

This summer, the Superfund remediation work will take over responsibility for all sampling and will begin systematic screening of the entire Libby valley area for asbestos contamination. Paul Peronard's Emergency Response team has been removing asbestos sources in yards, houses, etc. The remediation work will address residual contamination after a risk assessment to determine the appropriate level of cleanup. During the next two months, we will be contacting everyone who lives here to arrange for a visual property inspection and ask a series of questions and possibly to conduct soil samples. We will have a sampling plan available for comments by April. We will focus remediation activities first on the town and later on Rainy Creek Road and the mine as additional resources become available.

CAG Member Question - Will you be able to eliminate some properties from additional cleanup based on what people say to you?

Answer - We will rely upon what people tell us, visual inspections, and soil samples for cleanup decisions.

Audience Member Question - You said that you will be developing a cleanup plan for the Libby area. What about Troy? Troy residents have Zonolite insulation and worked at the mine and other W.R. Grace facilities.

Answer - We are focusing on Libby because of the level of asbestos contamination and exposure. EPA's concern is where should the remediation efforts end? The air quality in Troy was different than Libby.

State Report

Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ)

Craig French of the Montana Department of Environmental Quality stated that he was assigned to the Libby situation two weeks ago. The state has a continuing concern because of its 10% cost share responsibility including long-term maintenance of the site.

Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS)

Dr. Michael Spence, State Medical Officer, reported that he and federal agency personnel met two weeks ago in Atlanta to consider priorities for Libby health care. They agreed that in order to predict what health resources will be needed, a registry must to established to track the health of individuals exposed to tremolite asbestos at Libby. The registry would provide information about the natural history and treatment of asbestos-related disease. The registry has been proposed to begin with the 8,000 present and former Libby people that have already been screened. Compiling the registry should begin over the next several weeks or months. Dr. Spence also reported that ATSDR will be turning over responsibility of additional medical screening to the state, and the state will screen people as they arrive. The state intends to seek funding to conduct followup screening every two to three years as a part of the disease registry to observe disease progression.

Audience Member Question - Would the registry address related diseases such as immune system disorders, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and fibromyalgia?

Answer - Yes.

CAG Member Question - Who will pay for the additional medical screening?

Answer - The state will seek a federal grant to pay for the screening.

CAG Member Question - You mentioned that the registry will begin with the 8,000 people already screened. Who else will be added?

Answer - The decision is not set in stone, but the plans now are to focus first on former W.R. Grace workers and then on their family members.

CAG Member Comment - I have a sister who grew up in Libby who is now living in Kentucky who is experiencing health problems that her doctors are having a hard time understanding. I have sent information on asbestos-related diseases to her. The registry should also include former Libby residents.

Response - Who should be included in the registry is still under discussion.

CAG Member Comment - A vermiculite expansion plant also existed at Great Falls.

Response - We are aware of this facility. Other locations also have tremolite asbestos. There is also a vermiculite mine south of Bozeman and two talc mines that may be the source of asbestos exposures.

CAG Member Question - Will Dr. Holian's research be included in the registry?

Answer - No, the registry will not include research results. We are, however, interested in asbestos research and are planning for a research conference this summer.

Audience Member Question - Is there a time frame for setting up the registry?

Answer - We don't have a time frame for moving beyond the additional 8,000 people who have been screened. We will be accepting comments on the registry over the next one to two months.

Dr. Spence stated that over the ten year period from 1990 through1999, 96 deaths from mesothelioma were recorded in Montana, ten times the expected rate for our state's population size.

CAG Member Question - What was the gender break down of the 96 mesothelioma cases?

Answer - To the best of my memory, there were 5 women and 91 men. In all but 3 of the cases the disease was located in the chest; the 3 were abdominal.

CAG Member Question - So far the federal government has declined to attempt to warn workers about the hazards of vermiculite insulation. Will the state issue such warnings?

Answer - The state approach to asbestos hazards will be same as for other toxic substances such as lead and arsenic. The registry will be one part of our educational effort. We will do what is appropriate and what we can.

County Report

Ron Anderson reported on behalf of Lincoln County on the following three topics.

EPA-W.R. Grace Consent Decree Funds

The County Commissioners are moving ahead with creation of the Asbestos-Related Disease Health Care Trust, Inc., a non-profit corporation being established to receive and administer the $2.75 million which W.R. Grace will pay as a result of its settlement decree with EPA. The Commissioners have selected nine members for the corporation board of directors. They are:

Jeff Regh, Owner of B&G Electric

Carol Alsbury, Social Services Director at Libby Care Center

John Johanson, VP-First National Bank of Montana

Diane Rewerts, School District #4 Teacher

Marcia Fantozzi, Libby Clinic Operations Manager

Don Smith, BN Employee

Gary Spencer, VP-Glacier Bank-Libby

Chuck Evans, Attorney

LeRoy Thom, Former Grace Employee/ Owns Montana Fabrication/CARD Clinic Advisory Group

Letter to Governor Martz

Tracy Velazquez, one of the two grant writers hired by Lincoln County to seek funding for medical care, has been unable to schedule a meeting with Governor Martz. We therefore have drafted a letter (see Appendix 2 PDF, 100K) from the CAG to Governor Martz requesting the appointment. Ms. Velazquez suggested that the letter also be released to the press.

CAG Member Question - When would the letter be released to the press? Shouldn't time be allowed for the Governor to receive it before the press does?

Answer by Ms. Velazquez - That is a good idea. If the CAG agrees to the letter, I will fax it to the Governor and release it to the press the next day.

CAG Action - The CAG agreed unanimously to direct its facilitator to sign the letter included below as Appendix 2 and to include with it a list of the CAG members present at this meeting.

County Investigation

Ron Anderson introduced John Meyers an attorney with the law firm that has been assisting the County with the possibility of initiating an investigation of the impacts of the tremolite asbestos exposure on County public health, welfare, safety, and the environment and of the need for action to abate it. Mr. Meyers stated that his firm has been working at no charge to the County and is now seeking funding to support the County's investigation, and specifically to allow it to establish an administrative record of the unmet health needs related to the asbestos exposure resulting from W.R. Grace operations and to pursue legal action to compel W.R. Grace to fund addressing the unmet needs. So far the firm has established that neither the County nor the state can provide the needed funding. The firm is therefore pursuing private funding. Any private funding must not expose Lincoln County taxpayers to any payment liability. To date, private funding has not been found.

CAG Member Question - Since W.R. Grace has declared bankruptcy, how can you pursue legal means to compel W.R. Grace to pay?

Answer - We have answered this question for the Commissioners but cannot do so publicly without disclosing our legal strategy. We believe there may be means to do so.

CAG Member Question - What would happen if a funding source other than W.R. Grace is found to pay for Libby's continuing medical care needs?

Answer - The County would seek to compel W.R. Grace to pay only unmet needs. If other funding sources are found, then the County need not pursue W.R. Grace.

CAG Member Question - Why would private funding be forthcoming?

Answer - A private party may be willing to assume the risk of funding the process in return for a relatively high rate of return on the money provided. We have used this method successfully in other cases.

CAG Member Question - Hasn't anyone raised the need for medical funding for Libby in the bankruptcy court?

Answer - Individuals are making claims before the bankruptcy court, but no claim has been made for unmet health care needs.

CARD Clinic Report

Kerry Beasley, Dr. Brad Black, and Pat Cohan reported on behalf of the CARD Clinic.

In the May 15 to June 1 time frame, the CARD Clinic will move to the vacated Palm Care space. The Clinic continues to provide follow up monitoring and treatment of asbestos disease. The Clinic Advisory Committee members include: Kerry Beasley, Gayla Benefield, Thomas Fennessy, DDS, Carrie Dedrick, John Righter, and LeRoy Thom. Questions about the Clinic can be addressed to the committee members, Rick Palagi, and the CARD staff.

Audience Member Question - What treatment does the Clinic provide?

Answer - The CARD Clinic is being careful not to come between a patient and his or her physician. We are sometimes able to make appointments for patients with their personal doctors when they alone have not been able to do so. On occasions when patients are unable to see their doctor, we do provide treatment such as antibiotics. Dr. Whitehouse visits the Clinic once a month. Because of the Clinic's tele-radiology capability, x-rays can be reviewed and assessed by doctors off site. We are still providing evaluations for people were screened in the ATSDR process. We are also providing comparative pulmonary function testing after six months and one year if necessary.

CAG Member Question - How is the CARD Clinic funded?

Answer - The initial screening evaluation is provided at no charge to the patient. These costs are covered by the W.R. Grace donation money. Follow-up tests which are necessary to reach a definitive diagnosis as to whether someone has an ARD are also not charged to the patients. These follow up tests are billed to the W.R. Grace health care plan, if the patients are eligible. Presently, the hospital has absorbed $260,000 for tests for patients not eligible for the plan. The patient, however, is liable for the radiology reading fee if not covered by the W.R. Grace health care plan, as Lincoln County Radiology is a private business outside of hospital operations.

CAG Member Questions and Comments

CAG Member Question - EPA has reportedly spent $32 million for the Libby cleanup and medical screening. Could you tell us how spending of those funds were broken down?

Answer by Paul Peronard - EPA has paid about $7 million for the medical screening and the screening equipment. We have spent $8-9 million on investigations including analytical sampling, research, and the risk assessment. The remaining $16 million was spend on cleanup and operations.

CAG Member Question -What is the time frame for the environmental justice grant?

Answer by Tracy Velazquez - EPA has told us the will probably let us know by the end of the summer.

CAG Member Comment - In addition to the environmental justice grant, because the Superfund listing has been formally proposed, Libby is now eligible for a Technical Assistance Grant.

Audience Member Comment - We should seek assistance from outside expertise to ensure that we don't overlook anything.

CAG Member Question -Do we have a need for technical assistance?

Answer by Paul Peronard - Up to now we have been addressing relatively easy issues. With Superfund remediation will come more difficult questions about risk assessment, and the community would benefit from having someone outside of EPA to help distill the issues.

CAG Action - The CAG agreed to Clinton Maynard's offer to bring a proposal for action on pursuing a Technical Assistance Grant from EPA at its next meeting.

CAG Member Comment - We should recognize the efforts of Dr. Spence on behalf of our community.

Response - The CAG and audience gave Dr. Spence a round of applause.

Public Comment

No other public comments were made.

Next Meeting

The next meeting is scheduled for Thursday, March 14 and March 28, 2002 from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. in the Ponderosa Room of Libby City Hall.

Appendix 1

CAG Member Attendance List
February 28, 2002 Meeting


Organization Represented

Don Wilkins

Lumber and Sawmill Workers

K.W. Maki

Libby School District

Sandy Wagner

Lincoln County Community Health Center (LCCHC)

George Keck


Brad Black

Lincoln County Health Officer

Ron Anderson

Lincoln County

Cyrus Lee

Kootenai Valley Head Start

Clinton Maynard

Area Asbestos Research Group

Ken Hays

Senior Citizens

Jim Christiansen


David Latham

The Montanian Newspaper

Wendy Thomi

EPA Community Involvement Coordinator

Paul Peronard


Craig French

Montana Department of Environmental Quality

Dan Straughsbaugh


Gayla Benefield


Norita Skramstad

Asbestos Victim

Gary Spencer


Kerry Beasely

St. John's Lutheran Hospital

Gary D. Swenson

Libby Volunteer Fire Department

Franklin (Mick) Mills


Photos courtesy of Dudley Dana, Dana Gallery