Gerald Mueller and members of the Libby Community Advisory Group (CAG) introduced themselves. A list of the members and visitors in attendance is attached below as Appendix 1.
The CAG agreed to the following agenda for this meeting:
Jim Christiansen and Wendy Thomi reported on the following topics on behalf of EPA.
Boat Ramp Cleanup - The cleanup and restoration is finished. As expected, the total cost will be about $300 thousand. The close out report on the cleanup at this site will soon be available at the EPA Information Center.
Audience Member Question - Has the decision been made about how many trees and how much other vegetation will be planted at this site?
Answer - Yes. We have worked with Dan Thede concerning this decision.
Business Cleanups - Two business cleanups have been completed to date. Letters will be sent shortly to another 80 businesses inviting them to an open house at the Venture Inn on January 12, 2004 to explain the cleanup process. At the open house we will explain what EPA can and cannot do in business cleanups, how the businesses are likely to be affected, and that all businesses will be treated the same.
CAG Member Question - Will all businesses get paid to offset the time that they must be closed during the cleanup?
Answer - No. EPA will not compensate businesses for closures during the cleanup, nor will we pay to relocate them temporarily. The funding is not available to do so. We will work with the businesses to schedule the cleanup at the best time for them. We can also take some measures to alleviate the impact of a closure such as installing temporary telephone and fax lines.
Audience Member Question - It is not just the business owners who lose money during the cleanup. Employees also lose wages. Could EPA consider using a double shift of cleanup workers to get the job done twice as fast?
Answer - Using a double shift or hiring more cleanup workers to speed the cleanup would be difficult. We cannot afford the overtime and would have to spend time to train additional workers.
Three documents important for understanding the cleanup work are now available for public review and comment at the EPA Information Center. The three include: the Pre-design Inspection Work Plan which provides the details about the information EPA collects and how they collect it for properties that need cleanup; the Design Analysis Report which covers the supporting details of the response action work plan; and the Response Action Work Plan which describes the residential and commercial cleanup processes and procedures. We will take comments on these documents through January. Even after these documents are finalized, the cleanup processes and procedures may change as we learn from actual cleanup experience and receive comments from the Technical Advisory Group, the CAG, and others. Also, next week, another important document will be available at the EPA Information Center. The Action Level and Clearance Criteria Technical Memo will discuss what triggers cleanup and how clean is clean. Finally, in January, a report summarizing all Libby asbestos air quality data will be released. This report will contain the results of all ambient air sampling and of all air sampling conducted around cleanup sites. The results to date demonstrate that it is safe to breath the air in Libby even next to the cleanup job sites.
CAG Member Question - Do you intend to discuss the air monitoring results in a public meeting?
Answer - I don't plan to at this point.
Meeting with Governor Martz - EPA briefed Governor Martz last week about the ongoing cleanup. She expressed surprise that Troy is included in the cleanup plans, and the press reported her surprise. One article was head-lined, "Libby Cleanup Grows." In fact, the plans to clean Troy are not new. Nothing has changed. We do not yet have sufficient funds to begin the cleanup in Troy, but we will get to it as quickly as possible.
Post Cleanup Sampling - We are beginning post-cleanup sampling to ensure that the houses remain clean after the cleanup has finished under actual living conditions. We will be monitoring a range of post-cleanup conditions, e.g. we will monitor in some houses in which remodeling has occurred, in some in which carpets were and were not replaced, etc. The sampling will include personal samplers worn by household residents. The sampling will continue for a couple of months. A report on the sampling should be issued in March.
CAG Member Question - What sampling technique will be used, polarized light microscopy or transmission electron microscopy?
Answer - Transmission electron microscopy, which is the state of art of sampling, will be used.
HEPA Vacuum Cleaners - EPA will provide a HEPA vacuum for each household following a residential cleanup. Use of these vacuums will help ensure that a clean household environment is maintained. Providing a vacuum and a fact sheet explaining its use will become part of the standard cleanup closeout practice.
Administrator Leavitt's Libby Visit - Administrator Leavitt had scheduled a half-day visit to Libby on December 5. While we look forward to his visit, the December 5 date was too early to allow necessary preparation by the Libby EPA team. Mr. Christiansen asked, therefore, that the visit be postponed, and it was. While a firm date has not been set, the Administrator will likely come to Libby sometime in February or early March.
CAG Member Question - I have a question about the residential cleanups. I received a call from a homeowner with vermiculite attic insulation who had a ceiling crack taped by an EPA contractor. The caller was apparently not told whether or when EPA would return to remove the contaminated attic insulation. Is taping the crack all of the cleanup that will occur at this house? Has the contractor visit dropped this house to the bottom of the cleanup list?
Answer - Taping a ceiling crack is only a temporary measure to prevent the insulation from entering the living space until the actual cleanup occurs. We use taping because we cannot fix every crack prior to cleanups. This house will be cleaned, and it has not dropped to the bottom of the cleanup schedule list.
EPA Outreach Activities - Wendy Thomi reported on EPA outreach activities. The HEPA vacuum fact sheet mentioned by Mr. Christiansen is available at the EPA Information Center. A draft of the video filmed during September to explain the cleanup process is finished, as is the fact sheet that will accompany it. Finally, a fact sheet on the annual cleanup report including information such as the cleanup cost will also be available at the EPA Information Center early in the new year.
CAG Member Question - Does the HEPA vacuum fact sheet mention that EPA will be supplying filters for the vacuum?
Answer - No, the fact sheet does not mention this. EPA will, however, be supplying the filters.
Barb Guthneck, Executive Director of Libby Community Interagencies Inc., reported that the tobacco prevention grant has been received. A public forum on tobacco prevention will be held this coming May. Ms. Guthneck thanked the CAG for its support for the grant.
Gayla Benefield reported on the effort to produce a fact sheet and to plan a community wide effort to support the full cleanup funding level requested by the Libby EPA team. Gordon Sullivan is drafting a fact sheet to explain the community's need for the full funding. Ms. Benefield read a letter, which is included below as Appendix 2, that will be included in a school mailer for 1,500 children. The letter will be edited to reduce its length. Ms. Benefield stated that baskets to collect letters from Libby people will be placed at various locations around the town. The letters will be given to Administrator Leavitt when he visits Libby next year. Ms. Benefield asked the CAG to endorse the letter so that it can be signed as coming from the CAG.
CAG Action - The CAG members present unanimously agreed that the letter be signed as coming from the CAG.
Mike Giesey, then read a draft resolution prepared at the request of the CARD Board of Directors. See Appendix 3 for a copy of the resolution. Mr. Geisey stated that a committee of volunteers will carry the resolution to Libby businesses and community organizations such as the ministerial association and service clubs to ask that they sign it. The signed resolution will also be presented to Administrator Leavitt during his visit. The CAG will be asked to endorse the resolution at either the January or February CAG meeting after it is finalized.
Ms. Benefield stated that a week-long media blitz involving television, radio, and print media is being planned to garner support for individual letters and the business and community organization resolution. An op-ed piece will be written for local newspapers.
CAG Member Comment - The draft letter for the school children and the resolution is good work.
Audience Member Comment - Perhaps the schools could conduct a contest in which children who write their own letters could be rewarded by giving them a candy kiss or by some other means. Letters from children can be very powerful.
CAG Member Comment - We cannot underestimate the value of a united community supporting the full cleanup funding. The new EPA Administrator is not personally committed to the Libby cleanup as was his predecessor, Administrator Whitman. Administrator Leavitt's pending trip here may be our last opportunity to have an impact and obtain his commitment.
CAG Member Comment - We can have a tremendous impact if we have a broad base of community support.
CAG Member Comment - A broad base of community support is critical, not just for the cleanup, but also for economic revitalization and to obtain the health care Libby will need.
Audience Member Question - What is the time frame for gathering signatures?
Answer - We need to have the signatures collected prior to the Administrator's visit here.
Audience Member Question - Can we get from EPA the names and addresses of people who have or are scheduled to have residential cleanups so we can solicit their support?
Answer by Jim Christiansen - No. For privacy reasons, EPA will not supply the names and addresses.
Audience Member Comment - As a business owner, I am willing to go door to door to collect signatures for the resolution. We need letters or resolution signatures from 75% of the individuals and businesses in Libby.
CAG Member Comment - Once we have a definite date for Administrator's visit here, we should schedule a CAG meeting on the prior Thursday evening so we can prepare for it.
CAG Member Question - Since George Bauer is no longer on the City Council, we need to solicit representative from the City to be a CAG member. We also need a representative of Lincoln County on the CAG. Would EPA help solicit members from the City and County?
Answer by Wendy Thomi - I am happy to assist, but the CAG itself should be the primary recruiter.
LeRoy Thom reported on behalf of the Asbestos Related Health Care Project Report (ARHCP). The ARHCP has three new members on its board of directors: Dave Stephenson, JoElyn Brus, and Jim Hopkins. The Libby Asbestos Medical Plan (LAMP) run by ARHCP to provide medical benefits to the W.R. Grace Medical plan has had 189 applicants to date. Since the W.R. Grace Plan has 600 enrollees, a large number of people qualified to participate in LAMP have not yet applied to do so. LAMP has obtained the services of outside doctors to review the cases of 9 individuals who have been denied enrollment in the W.R. Grace Medical Plan. We have also had 42 people apply to LAMP for screening benefits.
CAG Member Question - Is LAMP spending money yet?
Answer - We just got money into our checking account so we can begin doing so.
Gerald Mueller reported that a review of past meeting summaries indicated two outstanding issues. The first is an actuarial analysis to project future health costs in Libby. At October 10, 2002 CAG meeting, Dr. Spence, Montana's State Health Officer, reported that the state had obtained a $40 thousand grant to pay for a health economist to conduct an actuarial analysis of the future cost of adequate and appropriate health care for Libby. The CAG has not had an update on this study. Dr. Black stated that earlier this month, he wrote to Dr. Spence on behalf of the CARD Clinic Board of Directors sharing the Board's concerns about apparent weaknesses in the design of the actuarial analysis, which has not yet begun. A copy of Dr. Black's letter is attached below as Appendix 4. The second outstanding issue relates to information provided by landlords to prospective tenants about asbestos contamination. In a response to an audience member comment reported in the summary of the October 9 2003 CAG meeting, Jim Christiansen stated that EPA would ask a representative of the realty community involved with rentals to come to a future CAG meeting to discuss this issue. Jim Christiansen reiterated his commitment to do so.
Audience Member Question - Could we have someone from the state report to us about the results of the screening to date in the Montana Asbestos Screening and Surveillance Activity Program?
Answer by Craig French - I will take this request to Dr. Spence.
The next regular CAG meeting is scheduled for 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. on Thursday, January 8, 2004 in the Ponderosa Room of Libby City Hall. The agenda will include a discussion of the EPA brochure entitled "Living with Vermiculite," the letter to Attorney General Mike McGrath prepared by Clinton Maynard, and a report on the community letter and resolution activities.
CAG Member & Guest Attendance List
December 11, 2003
Technical Advisory Group
Montana Department of Environmental Quality
EPA Project Manager
Gary D. Swanson
David F. Latham
The Montanian Newspaper
CARD/Lincoln County Health Officer
Area Asbestos Research Group
Former Grace Employee
THE CITIZEN'S ADVISORY GROUP
Dear Mothers and Fathers,
For four years the Environmental Protection Agency has been in Libby cleaning up toxic material left by the W.R. Grace Mining operation. For the same four years our children walk to and from school across properties covered with visual signs of contamination and awaiting cleanup . The fact is, while our community patiently waits we continue to worry about the potential of future exposure . This letter is about our community's future and the future of our families.
The citizens of South Lincoln County have agreed to patiently wait as the work of the EPA continues on pace, a pace we agreed to years ago, a pace that allows up to 250 properties to be cleaned each year. W e have agreed to be patient only because repeatedly high-level EPA officials have promised to fund the cleanup to a level that ensures our community gets a clean bill of health within 3 to 5 years. Trusted EPA project managers have set a budget of $20 million per year to complete this goal. They work hard to spend the money wisely and to the best interest of our community. Recently, the same "high level" EPA officials that have committed to the priority of our cleanup dramatically cut the project-operating budget by $5 million .
What does this action mean to the families and businesses of South Lincoln County? It means our families are put at potential risk for 12 years rather than the 3 to 5 years that we agreed to, only 130 properties per year rather than the 250 will be cleaned.
The recent decisions of the EPA to narrow its commitment to South Lincoln County cannot go unanswered. In response to this shift in priory on behalf of the EPA a number of concerned citizens have put together a letter writing campaign and we ask your help. We need "thousands " of letters to come from everyone in South Lincoln County expressing their concerns. To ensure your letters get to the highest level of authority within EPA, the community intends to personally hand them to Governor Leavitt, current Director of the EPA.. We will set up a drop basket at Timberline Auto for you and all of your family members to deposit their letters. We need to speak loudly and firmly and with a united voice. We need to speak "now" . We ask you to sit with your family, compose your letters and deliver them to Timberline Auto. We ask that you speak from the depth of your heart so we can finally get our community back, clean and healthy .
Let's fill the basket and tell the EPA that we want our town back.
THE CITIZEN'S ADVISORY GROUP
WE THE PEOPLE of Libby and Lincoln County, Montana, speak. We speak with one voice, one focus. We speak with divided, diverse, and disparate interests, yet we speak to one goal. Ours is a community decimated despite our diligence; caught unaware of the destruction of our environment and detriment to our health from long term exposure to asbestos. We speak as one, united in the prospect of a bright future in a beautiful natural setting, where we can claim a clean environment, our homeland secure from further environmental disaster from asbestos, our homes a safe haven for our children and our children's children. We speak from the job site, we speak from the classroom, we speak from the kitchen table, the business on the corner, the local pub, the fishing hole, and the golf course. We speak in loud, angry shouts, and in meek voices. We speak from the pulpit, and from the political platform. We speak from the grave. We speak for those who have gone before us, and for those to follow. We speak as a people who cherish our past, who are confronting our present, in order to craft our future. We speak to our president, our congressional delegation, our governor, our federal agency leaders, and our fellow citizens. We speak to the living legacy of a resolute people who deserve to be heard. WE HEREBY RESOLVE:
WHEREAS, the residents and the environment surrounding the city of Libby, Montana, and the surrounding area in Lincoln County, Montana, have had chronic exposure to tremolite-series asbestos from the mining and milling of asbestos products at the nearby W. R. Grace mine facilities from 1923 to 1990; and
WHEREAS, the residents of Libby, Montana, and Lincoln County, Montana have been afflicted with health concerns and human mortality resulting from occupational and secondary exposure to tremolite asbestos fibers discharged into the environment by the mining and milling of vermiculite at the nearby W. R. Grace mine facilities; and
WHEREAS, considerable research is currently underway in Libby by several state and federal agencies to analyze the threat to human health and the environment from asbestos; and
WHEREAS, this exposure resulted in the US Environmental Protection Agency declaring a 22-mile area surrounding Libby, Montana, as a Superfund site, with subsequent listing on the EPA National Priorities List for cleanup; and
WHEREAS, illness from tremolite-series asbestos is a problem that extends beyond Montana to national and international levels with future global consequences of yet undetermined, but potentially vast proportions; and
WHEREAS, the citizens of Libby, Montana, and Lincoln County, Montana believe that prevention of further exposure to tremolite-series asbestos by appropriate and adequate cleanup of already identified tremolite-series asbestos is absolutely essential to the health of future generations by limiting new exposure to tremolite-series asbestos; and
WHEREAS, a state-of-the-art research center in Libby, Montana, site of the largest concentration of people who are ill with tremolite-series asbestos-related diseases, is appropriate and essential for developing new treatments for asbestos-related disease, new modalities to arrest the progression of the disease, and eventual cures for asbestos-related diseases as the only viable opportunity for long-term solutions for asbestos-related diseases; and
WHEREAS, the city of Libby, Montana, and the entire Lincoln County community, as a whole, regard a vigorous and rigorous campaign to clean up the Superfund area as the best remediation against negative perceptions related to "Superfund" designation, fears about continuing asbestos exposure, and the community's economic future for attracting and retaining new residents and businesses; and
WHEREAS, the community of Libby and Lincoln County, Montana, believe that all three elements - prevention/cleanup, diagnosis/treatment, and research/cure - are necessary for a successful conclusion to the remediation effort and for a sustainable community future after the remediation,
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, THAT THE CITIZENS OF LIBBY AND LINCOLN COUNTY, MONTANA, URGE
1) that the US Environmental Protection Agency be held accountable to continue funding for the cleanup at the previously agreed upon levels to reflect the quality standards and timeliness of cleanup of homes, businesses, and the environment that was promised; that this "silver bullet" NPR Superfund site for Montana be honored with the full weight of the power and obligation of the federal government;
2) that the US Environmental Protection Agency complete the assessment of the entire Superfund site surrounding Libby, Montana, as quickly as possible; if other highly contaminated sites are found, that additional funding be set aside for unexpected cleanup activities, thereby not diminishing the funding available for cleanup of homes and existing known contaminated sites;
3) that the US Environmental Protection Agency use the best science and best technologies available to monitor and to assess the tremolite-series asbestos danger, exposure, and levels of contamination that endanger the health of people in Libby and Lincoln County;
4) that the US Environmental Protection Agency demonstrate their long-term dedication to post-remediation community and economic recovery for the citizens and communities in Lincoln County affected negatively by asbestos-related exposure, the "Superfund" stigma, and resultant economic loss, by sufficiently assisting Libby and Lincoln County by means of the EPA Superfund Redevelopment Program or other CERCLA programs that would benefit Libby and Lincoln County, Montana.
5) that the Montana Congressional Delegation, the Governor of Montana, and the Montana Legislature continue to assist the community of Libby and Lincoln County to pursue funding and to exert all possible influence to make a state-of-the-art asbestos research facility a reality in Libby, Montana;
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that copies of this resolution be sent to the President of the United States, the Montana Congressional Delegation, the Governor of Montana, the Montana Legislature, the Mayor of Libby, the Mayor of Troy, the Board of Commissioners of Lincoln County, the Director of EPA Region Eight and to the Montana Office of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Director of the Department of Environmental Quality, and the Montana Department of Environmental Quality.
WE, the following signatories, represent ourselves, our families, and the businesses, agencies, and organizations with which we are affiliated, as residents of Lincoln County, Montana, and do hereby proclaim our endorsement of this resolution.
Dated this 1st Day of December, 2003.
December 1, 2003
Mr. Mike Spence, MD.
Montana State Health Officer
RE: Libby ARD Healthcare Study
As you are proceeding with the actuarial analysis, our CARD Clinic Board has recognized several apparent weaknesses, which could result in a significant underestimate of total health care costs. We would appreciate you considering the following points of question before embarking on the project:
1) CARD Clinic data will reflect only eight months of patient services.
2) Absence of clinical data on Dr. Alan Whitehouse's patient population. This group includes a larger portion of those with advanced ARD in the impacted population.
3) The population size will not be adequately reflected in the study. Based on new patients evaluated at the CARD Clinic (exposures and disease severity), we would anticipate a significant number of new ARD diagnoses in the ensuing years. Further impacting the population size are the increasing denials for coverage under the W.R. Grace healthcare plan (i.e., patients with advanced ARD. having hypoxia requiring O 2 supplementation not being accepted). Thus costly services for these individuals will not be in data collected.
4) Actuarial analysis is most probably based on past experience with chrysotile asbestos and also with better estimates of exposure levels. The Libby population has highly variable exposure experiences to Libby amphibole. If the propensity for ARD increases with increased exposure, how can we know what to anticipate in this population? The proposed analysis would fail to draw any meaningful correlation from the number of pathways of exposure with frequency/severity of ARD. Additionally, Dr. Whitehouse has observed a significantly increased rate of ARD complications compared to his chrysotile-exposed population.
In closing, these above concerns and how they may affect ARD healthcare cost analysis, the final tally could substantially underestimate this figure. The CARD Clinic Board has requested that you, Dr. Whitehouse, and myself meet together for review of the analysis plan prior to proceeding with data collection. Because of the ramifications of such an analysis, and recognizing one cannot quantify some of the uncertainties, we should approach the study with caution in view of weaknesses in analysis.
Dr. Brad Black
Medical Director, CARD Clinic
Photos courtesy of Dudley Dana, Dana Gallery