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Libby Community Advisory Group

Meeting Summary

April 14, 2005


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


The CAG agreed to the following agenda for this meeting:

  •     Agency reports         




    CARD Clinic

    ARD Net

  •     Skramstad Trip Presentation
  •     Breath of Life Video

EPA Report

Jim Christiansen reported on behalf of EPA on the following topics.

Community Involvement - EPA is planning several activities to provide information about the Record of Decision (ROD) process for the cleanup and how Libby and Troy people can participate in it. The activities include:
    Mailing a survey to about 4,000 Libby residents and 1,000 Troy residents asking basic questions about awareness of and satisfaction with EPA cleanup work.
    Publishing two newspaper columns. The first will be entitled "Superfund and You". It will be published every two weeks and will explain the Superfund process as it is being applied to the asbestos cleanup in Libby. The second column will address technical cleanup.
    Mailing sampling results to Libby residents. The length of time that has passed from the collection of samples to sending out the results was caused by the need to develop sampling methods and protocols and to analyze the large number of samples. Over 16,000 soil samples have been taken. Results of the soil samples will be mailed starting the next few weeks. EPA decided to start with soil sample results because air and dust samples are more complicated to analyze and interpret. EPA will send out air and dust sample results, along with each property's cleanup status, after the ROD.
    Conducting public meetings through the summer and fall with various community groups regarding the ongoing cleanup and the ROD. Earlier this week, EPA met with Libby and Trop realtors to determine how well properties have been selling and whether the "comfort" letters have been useful. The realtors reported that properties have been selling and that the letters have been having their intended affect. Other meetings will be held with contractors, tradesmen and the school system.

Supplemental Sampling Plan - A plan to obtain information needed for the ROD is being reviewed by the Libby Technical Advisory Group (TAG) and the state. The supplemental sampling plan is designed to fill in knowledge gaps for the ROD. For example, it includes sampling of scenarios such as air sampling during yard raking to define the level of cleanup necessary to protect human health.

Demolition - Sampling and work plans have been developed and reviewed nationally for two building demolitions. These demolitions will be exceptions to the general rule that buildings will not be demolished. One building will be demolished because it is falling down and the other because it is technically infeasible to clean. We hope these demolitions and the sampling will demonstrate that this work can be accomplished safely.

J. Neils Park - Because of its public use, cleanup of the contamination found in the Park is a priority and will begin next month.

Stimson Central Maintenance Building - Cleanup of this building will begin in May. A portion of the roof will be removed and replaced, and the building interior will be cleaned.

Johnson Acres - A small amount of contamination was found early but we were able to quickly work around it. Work continues and is going well.

Year in Review Video - Jim Christiansen said that he will present at the next CAG meeting another humorous look at EPA's work in Libby, similar to the presentation he made in October 2003.

Audience Member Question - The old boarding house is being torn down. Does it contain asbestos? The demolition workers are not wearing protection.
Answer - It does not contain vermiculite. It may contain other types of asbestos which aren't subject to Superfund cleanup. I know the owner is coordinating with the state asbestos program on building inspection in an appropriate manner. Non-Superfund asbestos found in materials such as tile and pipe insulation is removed before demolition occurs.

CAG Member Question - What is the comment period on the supplemental sampling plan?
Answer - There is no specific deadline. You will have at least two weeks. Please let me know how much time you need.

CAG Member Question - Does the plan include learning as we go?
Answer - Yes.

CAG Member Comment - Two or three months ago I asked for information about asbestos contamination of the US Senate chamber.
Response - Dr. Aubrey Miller and I have tried to learn what happened and what standard was used to guide the cleanup. All we have been told is that a standard abatement was conducted. I will ask again.

CAG Member Question - How much money did you request in this year's budget?
Answer - I requested $19 million. Headquarters allocated $17 million, of which I have so far received $16 million. Region 8 provided an additional $1 million. In total, I have a budget of $18 million for this year. Some activities, such as the animal study, I may not be able to conduct this year. I will consider funding the animal study late in the year after the Stimson maintenance cleanup is completed, and I see if money remains. In summary, I have received what I was promised, but I could use a little more.

CAG Member Question - How critical is the animal study?
Answer - I am not sure how its results would affect the ROD, but it would produce needed information.

CAG Member Question - At the last meeting a member of the public requested a detailed breakdown of this year's budget. Is it being prepared?
Answer - I am responding to several requests for budget information. Senator Baucus asked for an exact tally of expenditures for each year EPA has worked in Libby. His request has been answered. I need to talk with you and the requester about how I should present the information.

CAG Member Question - I want to know how much has actually been spent on cleanup, as opposed to oversight.
Answer - Assuming that it meets your needs, I will put the information together using categories such as cleanup costs including land fill and mine operation costs, project oversight and management, research, sampling, and community involvement.

Peggy Churchill reported on behalf of EPA on the following topics.

W.R. Grace Indictments - As was reported earlier this week in the press, indictments of W.R. Grace officials were issued.  Questions concerning them should be addressed to the US Attorney Bill Mercer, who can be reached at (406)542-8851.  The EPA cleanup staff cannot discuss the indictments.

Residential Cleanups - Cleanup work will resume on February 21.   A task order has been awarded for cleaning fourteen properties and another will be awarded next week for nineteen additional properties.  The target for residential cleanups this year remains at 170, and we intend to clean about twenty properties per month through the construction season.

Asbestos Conference - We were asked at the last CAG meeting if EPA has plans for another asbestos conference in Libby.  We do not now have plans for a conference.  We will have a public session in about four months to explain the subjects covered at last fall's meeting with the TAG in Denver.  We are calling this session "Denver Lite."

New Administrator - Former Administrator Leavitt has been confirmed to head a different agency.  Steven Johnson has been appointed as Acting Administrator until a new one is confirmed.

Johnson Acres - Geo-probe samples were taken this property without detecting any visible amounts of vermiculite or mine tailings.  The City will begin cleanup at this site this spring.

State Report

Catherine LeCours reported on behalf of the Montana DEQ.  She stated that she has no news since her report last month.  Work is continuing on the community involvement plan.

TAG Report

LeRoy Thom reported on behalf of the TAG.  The April 12 meeting was postponed until April 26.  The TAG is waiting for EPA's response to ten questions the TAG delivered after its March meeting which addressed issues such as the treatment of carpets and walls in the cleanups.

Comment by Jim Christiansen - I am working on the response to the questions, and will have it to the TAG soon.

CAG Member Question - Number 1 on the list of questions was a request for EPA to respond to the Community Response document prepared by the TAG's scientific advisor.  I want a full response to the document.

Response by LeRoy Thom - I am not sure that the TAG assigned priorities to the list of questions.

               Response by Jim Christiansen - EPA will respond to the questions


The Asbestos Related Disease Network (ARD Net) received a $197,000 grant to fund fully its operation for the coming fiscal year which begins on May 1.

Skramstad Trip Report
Les and Norita Skramstad reported on the ten-day trip which they and Gayla Benefield made to Washington DC and New York City. The trip began on April 1 in Washington DC. April 1 was Asbestos Awareness Day. Gayla Benefield received a well deserved award for her work in Libby. The next day, we traveled to New York City where we were in meetings from 8:00 a.m. to midnight each day. Gayla met with fireman and policeman. We also met with residents of a high rise building located near the Twin Towers which was contaminated when the Towers collapsed. Some 3,800 people live in this building. EPA is not cleaning the building. Cleanup is the responsibility of building owners, who are refusing to do so. The residents we met with asked us about what should be done regarding a cleanup and how it should be done. We responded the best we could. We suggested that the people first learn what chemicals and other materials were in the Twin Towers. Having learned about this situation, we will not gripe at the Libby EPA team any more. The team is doing great things for us. We also toured Ground Zero and were amazed at the size of the hole. We met with officials form NIOSH and with Dr. Stephen Levine who heads Mount Sinai Hospital. Dr. Levine asked us what it was like to work in the mine and the mill. At one of the meetings, the documentary entitled Libby, Montana produced by High Plains Films out of Missoula, was shown.

Audience Member Comment - Dr. Stephen Levine is screening the 9-11 workers. He is on the Committee for Asbestos-Related Research which is advising the CARD.

CAG Member Question - Did the Asbestos Awareness Day meetings treat the differential toxicity of the different forms of asbestos?
Answer - No. We, however, emphasized tremolite and its different effects.

Breath of Life Video
Kile Kolb and Cody Wilkes, two Central School high school students, showed a trailer for a video they are producing. The theme of the final video will be, "Asbestos is not just Libby's problem." Libby is acting to address its asbestos problem, and the rest of the country needs to act as well. The video should be finished by June and is scheduled to premier during that month at the Roxy Theater in Missoula. Funding for this project has been provided by a grant.

CAG Member Question - Will the video be shown here?
Answer - Yes.

CAG Member Question - The trailer showed a table of tonnages of vermiculite shipped to cities across the U.S. Where did you get this information?
Answer - We got the shipment data from a government sponsored web site.

CAG Member Question - How long will the finished product be?
Answer - It will be either 38 or 45 minutes, depending on whether it is shown on PBS or a network like NBC.

CAG Member Question - Are you working with the University of Montana in producing the video?

Answer - We have worked with Dr. Pfau, learning about her research.

CAG Member Question - What is the reaction of other kids at school to your project?
Answer - They have different opinions. Some do not understand the topic.

Public Comment

Clinton Maynard discussed two topics: the EPA brochure entitled "Living With Vermiculite" and the differential toxicity of amphibole asbestos.

"Living With Vermiculite" - In October 2003, EPA mailed this brochure to all Libby postal patrons. It contains some good information, but it also has some that is wrong geared toward making people feel comfortable. Rather than discuss the brochure at a CAG meeting, I discussed it with Dr. Aubrey Miller, EPA's Toxicologist. I spent three and half hours talking with him. Dr. Miller said that he would not stand behind some statements in the brochure that I am concerned about. He said, however, that the brochure is in Jim Christiansens's court. I want the brochure pulled.

CAG Member Question - Can you give us examples of the statements that you believe are incorrect?
Answer - I will read two. "Even though contacting or working near vermiculite or other asbestos-containing materials can release asbestos fibers into the air, if such exposures are infrequent or for short durations, they will not...increase your risk of health effects..." "...EPA understands that it may be practical and acceptable for homeowners or general contractors to conduct the work."

Comment by Jim Christiansen - The statements that you read need to be considered in context. The brochure recommends not contacting vermiculite and limiting any exposure to it. However, some contact is inevitable. As we have explained before, EPA cannot remove all vermiculite from every home. The risk associated with a resident cleaning up a small leak is not unacceptable. I will request that Dr. Miller come to the next CAG meeting so that we can discuss this. We are working on three additional fact sheets for contractors, trades people and homeowners to clarify our advice. I am not willing to pull the brochure.

Differential Toxicity - I discussed the differential toxicity of tremolite asbestos at a past CAG meeting, but I did not have specific documentation with me. To demonstrate that I was not being irresponsible, I have the documentation with me tonight. The document is entitled, "Report on the Peer Consultation Workshop to Discuss a Proposed Protocol to Assess Asbestos-Related Risk." I will read excerpts from it. (See Appendix 2 below for the excerpts that read by Mr. Maynard.) If our federal government would focus on and address amphibole asbestos exposures, we could eradicate the majority of the disease caused by exposure to mineral fiber.

Comment by Jim Christiansen - EPA commissioned the studies you are referencing. We are using the results to inform the cleanup here. While the information you cite indicates that tremolite may be 500 times more potent in producing mesothelioma, that does not mean that EPA's actions in Libby are 500 times less stringent than they should be. Mesothelioma is not the driver here, because other health effects are more common and more significant. All of the risk factors for the different diseases are incorporated in the model and we use the results to help us establish cleanup levels. EPA has written a paper on this issue, and I will supply it to the CAG. I also do not agree that addressing amphibole asbestos will resolve the health problems problems across the country. Many people suffer disease who were exposed to chrysotile asbestos in ship yards and brake factories and other places.

Audience Member Comment - There is a lot of risk in the things we do. EPA is doing the best it can to help us and our situation is much improved.

CAG Member Comment - The owners of the high rise near the Twin Towers are not allowing cleanup and EPA is not allowed to conduct a cleanup. I appreciate EPA's efforts here.
Response by Jim Christiansen - We encourage you to keep us on our toes, but please remember that our actions are constrained by science, budget and laws.

Member Comment - We are concerned about our kids. Life is precious. We must stop what happened here in the past. The only way for us to get beyond it is through a thorough cleanup. Montana's governor used the state's one and only silver bullet to put Libby on the Superfund list and allow the cleanup to occur. The public has to demand change so that we can do it right.
Response by Jim Christiansen - Ten percent of the EPA Superfund budget is allocated to Libby. As the student video documents, millions of tons of vermiculite were shipped from Libby to other cities across the US. EPA will not have enough funds to conduct the cleanup we are conducting here at the other locations contaminated with asbestos from Libby vermiculite.

Next Meeting

The next CAG meeting was scheduled for 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. on Thursday, May 12, 2005 in the Ponderosa Room of Libby City Hall.  The agenda will include Jim Christiansen's humorous year end in review video and, if his schedule allows him to attend, Dr. Aubrey Miller will discuss issues raised by Clinton Maynard.

Appendix 1

CAG Member & Guest Attendance List
April 14, 2005

Members Group/Organization Represented
Connie Welter St. John's Lutheran Hospital
Clinton Maynard Area Asbestos Research Group
K.W. Maki Libby Schools
Ken Hays Senior Citizens
David Latham The Montanian Newspaper
Jim Christiansen EPA
Catherine LeCours DEQ
LeRoy Thom Former Grace Employee
Norita Skramstad Asbestos Victim
Les Skramstand
Gary D. Swenson Libby Volunteer Fire Department
Eileen Carney TAG and ARD Net

Appendix 2

Report on the Peer Consultation Workshop to Discuss a
Proposed Protocol to Assess Asbestos-Related Risk
Prepared for:

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response
Washington, DC 20460

EPA Contract No. 68-C-98-148
Work Assignment 2003-05

Prepared by:

Eastern Research Group, Inc.
110 Hartwell Avenue
Lexington, MA 02421

May 30, 2003


This report summarizes a peer consultation by 11 expert panelists of a proposed protocol to assess asbestos-related risks. Contractors to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) developed the proposed protocol, which is documented in a report tilled: "Technical Support Document for a Protocol to Assess Asbestos-Related Risk" (Berman and Crump 2001). The purpose of the peer consultation workshop was to provide EPA feedback on the scientific merit of the proposed protocol. The peer consultation workshop took place in a meeting open to the public on February 25-27, 2003, in San Francisco, California.

The report summarizes the technical discussions among the expert panelists and documents comments provided by observers. These discussions largely focused on three topic areas: interpretations of the epidemiology and toxicology literature, the proposed exposure index, and general questions about key assumptions and inferences in the protocol. The remainder of this introductory section presents background information on the protocol (Section 11), describes the scope of the peer consultation workshop (Section 1.2), and reviews the organization of this report (Section 13).

1.1 Background

EPA's current assessment of asbestos toxicity is based primarily on an asbestos review completed in 1986 (EPA 1986) and has not changed substantially since that time. The 1986 assessment considers six mineral forms of asbestos and all asbestos fiber sizes longer than 5 micrometers (Fm) to be of equal carcinogenic potency. However, since 1986, asbestos measurement techniques and the understanding of how asbestos exposure contributes to disease have improved substantially. To incorporate the knowledge gained over the last 17 years into the agency's toxicity assessment for asbestos, EPA contracted with Aeolus, Inc., to develop a proposed methodology for conducting asbestos risk assessments, The proposed methodology distinguishes between fiber sizes and fiber types in estimating potential health risks related to asbestos exposure. The methodology also proposes a new exposure Sex for estimating carcinogenic risk.
As a key step in determining the scientific merit of the proposed risk assessment methodology, EPA decided to obtain expert input on the draft report through a peer consultation workshop. The purpose of the workshop was to obtain feedback from subject-matter experts during the development stage of the proposed risk assessment methodology; the workshop was not an official peer review. Eastern Research Group, Inc. (ERG), organized and implemented the peer consultation workshop under a contract to EPA.

3.2 Mesothelioma

The following paragraphs document the panelists' responses to charge questions regarding inferences from the epidemiology and toxicology literature on how mesothelioma potency varies with fiber type... and fiber length ...

3.2.1 Mesothelioma and Fiber Type: Inferences from the Epidemiology Literature

The expert panelists unanimously agreed that the epidemiology literature provides compelling evidence that amphibole fibers have far greater mesothelioma potency than do chrysotile fibers-a finding reported both in the review document (Berman and Crump 2001) and a recent re-analysis of 17 cohort studies (Hodgson and Darnton 2000) that reported at least a 500-fold difference in potency...

The most notable response to this charge question was the agreement among most panelists that
amphibole fibers are at least 500 times more potent than chrysotile fibers for mesothelioma, as
supported by two separate reviews of epidemiological studies...

Photos courtesy of Dudley Dana, Dana Gallery