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Libby Community Advisory Group

Meeting Summary

August 11, 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

      Community Involvement Conference Report:
      UM Asbestos Conference Report:
      Lupus Survey:
      Public Comment:

EPA Report
Wendy Thomi reported on behalf of EPA on the following topics.

Media Communication Ban
Judge Molloy, the federal district judge who is presiding over the W.R. Grace criminal trial, has recently stated that he will not allow the case to be tried in the press. In response, EPA headquarters has directed the Libby EPA team to refer all media questions to the Administrator=s Press Secretary Eryn Witcher. Her telephone number is 202-564-7351.

CAG Member Comment - The Region 8 Libby team announced after the indictments were first issued that the criminal trial is not a subject that it would address. Team members would continue to focus on the cleanup.

CAG Member Question - What is the name of the person who issued this edict?
Answer - I don=t know who made the decision. It was communicated to Region 8 by Eryn Witcher.

CAG Member Question - Did Judge Malloy issue a "gag" order?
Answer - I don=t know the details about the "gag" order.

CAG Member Question - Who is Ms. Witcher's direct boss?
Answer - I am not sure.

CAG Member Question - How long will this edict be in effect?
Answer - For the time being.

CAG Member Comment - I am concerned about this attempt to stifle communication with the press. I will echo any question that the press wishes to ask at this meeting.

CAG Member Question - Is the EPA Administrator Steve Johnson a political appointee?
Answer - Yes.

CAG Member Question - Is Ms. Witcher?
Answer - I don't know.

CAG Member Question - Will press releases continue to be issued locally?
Answer - Yes. EPA will continue to issue press releases locally. Both Region 8 and the local team are precluded from giving interviews or from answering questions from the media, including the local newspapers and radio station. All questions must be directed to Ms. Witcher.

CAG Member Question - This is not right in America. The press is the conduit for the public.

CAG Member Comment - We know enough to get the word out about issues such as the risk posed by vermiculite insulation in homes to residents and workers who might come in contact with the Libby asbestos fiber. The science indicates that much lower exposures lead to plural diseases than is contemplated in occupational standards. If the EPA website is the only source of information about this, people will not get the information they need to take proper precautions and avoid putting themselves at risk. The public health and other agencies need to get the word out to help prevent exposures.
Response - We are aware of criticism of the EPA web site. Some say it looks like a chamber of commerce site, or that it does not look like a traditional Superfund web site. We have worked extensively with economic development groups to lessen the stigma resulting from Libby's Superfund site designation. The presentation of the web site in a series of layers is somewhat complicated, but it is easy to navigate. The Libby site is different, but Libby needs more than a traditional web site.

CAG Member Comment - EPA has worked here for five years, and it seems strange to have a "gag" rule now.

CAG Member Comment - This is not the first time the Bush Administration has gagged EPA; it is the third.
Response - It is not EPA's intention to withhold information. The "gag" rule stemmed from a concern that the criminal trial not be jeopardized by communication with the press. I do not know the details of how the rule was initiated or where it came from.

CAG Member Question - What kind of questions can you answer here tonight?
Answer - We can address the normal CAG topics. We cannot answer any questions regarding the criminal trial, and we cannot respond to questions from the media.

CAG Member Question - We will find a way to get the information out. This community is taking care of things here. People outside of this community, however, are not being warned about how non-occupational exposures can lead to health complications. How do we get this word out?
Answer - There are other ways to spread the information. The recent UM asbestos conference is an example. We need to be patient to see how this plays out. In the mean time, EPA headquarters has volunteered to respond to media questions.

Record of Decision Document - The record of decision (ROD) that will document how EPA is conducting the remedial cleanup for residential and commercial buildings is scheduled for completion in the spring of 2006. A proposed plan will be issued prior to the ROD. The proposed plan will be shorter than the ROD and will explain actions EPA will take to clean the residential and commercial buildings. The public will have 30 days to comment on the proposed plan.

Remedial Investigation\Feasibility Study - This study, known by its acronym RI\FS, will proceed the two documents just described. The RI\FS will provide information about various aspects of both the immediate and long-term cleanup. It will address the findings resulting from sampling of various potential exposure pathways such as lawn mowing, carpets, and children crawling on floors and carpets. It will include the results of confirmation sampling done 3, 6, and 9 months after cleanups. It will also cover the demolitions, ambient sampling results, the phase 2 sampling results, and the contaminant screening study of Libby homes.

Superfund Outreach - EPA is continuing its efforts to help the public understand the Superfund process. We have sent out a survey to gauge current understanding of Superfund and people=s response to the cleanup work that has happened. We will continue to publish newspaper columns to discuss the Superfund process and technical cleanup issues in more detail than the regular Q&A items. Finally, we will continue to conduct special meetings focused on particular segments of the community. Meetings have already been held with realtors, business groups, and contractors and workers involved with home repairs.

September 14 and 15 Workshop - EPA will conduct a workshop in Libby on September 14 and 15 on the Superfund process and several technical cleanup issues. This workshop will be similar to that hosted by EPA on October 5 and 6, 2004 in Denver for the Libby Area Technical Assistance Group (TAG) and state and local agency personnel. Its purpose will be to provide the public with a basic understanding of the Superfund process and issues related to the cleanup such as asbestos toxicity, risk assessment, sampling, and cleanup techniques. Two people from the Region 5 office in Chicago will discuss the Superfund process on September 14. On September 15, we will address the technical issues.

September CAG Meeting Date - To enable the CAG meeting to coincide with the September 14 - 15 workshop, Ms. Thomi asked that the next meeting be moved to the third Thursday in September rather than the second Thursday. The CAG agreed, so the next meeting will be on Thursday, September 15, 2005.

October 11 Pubic Meeting - On Tuesday, October 11, EPA will conduct a public meeting in Libby to discuss the big picture issues including the sampling results and the status of the cleanup. We hope this meeting will be attended by hundreds of people as were the early public meetings held when we first arrived in Libby.

Soil Sampling Letters - Mailing of letters containing the results of the soil sampling is underway and should be completed by the end of August. People who had soil sampled and have not received a letter by the end of August should contact the EPA Information Center. Some mailed letters have been returned because EPA used physical addresses rather than post office box numbers. Please call the Information Center if you have a post office box.

Cleanup Numbers - To date, EPA has completed cleanups on a total of 475 residential and commercial buildings in Libby, including 124 this year. We are ahead of schedule and will meet or exceed this year=s cleanup target.

New Assignment - Wendy Thomi has accepted a one year temporary assignment in Region 2. The next CAG meeting in September will be her last. Her replacement will be Ted Linnert who has been a Community Involvement Coordinator at other Superfund sites. Mr. Linnert will attend the September meeting. Mr. Linnert's telephone number is 303-312-6119.

CAG Member Question - Will RI/FS sampling results be discussed at the October 11 public meeting?
Answer - This is a good idea that I will pass on. I am not sure, however, that all of the samples will be analyzed by then.

Audience Member Comment - Could you report on the demolition of the Loomis house?
Answer -The demolition went well. More water was used to suppress dust. Only one asbestos structure was detected during the air sampling conducted in conjunction with the demolition.

Audience Member Question - What is your new assignment?
Answer - I will be the Community Involvement Coordinator for the World Trade Center (WTC) team in New York City. EPA is considering additional sampling in Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn in search for contamination and a specific contaminant signature resulting from the collapse of the WTC.

CAG Member Comment - I recently met with people in New York City who are dealing with the aftermath of the WTC collapse. Their situation reminded me of Libby in 2000. People are angry and are wondering what to do. They are eager to learn from our experience here.

CAG Member Comment - Your work here in Libby is excellent experience for New York. You taught us a lot, and you have learned from us as well. Thank you for your efforts here. You were willing to stick your neck out on our behalf.
Response - Thank you. I will always treasure my time here in Libby.

CAG Member Question - Is the ROD being worked on here or in Denver?
Response - Jim Christiansen is working on both the RI\FS and the ROD in Denver.

CAG Member Question - Will there be a separate ROD for each operable unit?
Answer - Yes. A ROD will also be issued for facilities already cleaned such as the export plant.

CAG Member Question - Will a ROD also be issued for the mine?
Answer - Yes. Bonnie Lavelle has been assigned to work only on the mine.

Audience Member Comment - I want to emphasize a point made earlier. Vermiculite from Libby has had many uses across this country. America needs to understand the risk that asbestos poses. Levels of exposure to Libby amphibole lower than that from commercial forms of asbestos cause disease. EPA issued a brochure addressing attic insulation that did not mention the increased toxicity of Libby asbestos over asbestos fiber types.

State Report
Catherine LeCours reported on behalf of the Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) that she did not have new information. She explained that DEQ is in a support role for EPA=s cleanup efforts.

Audience Member Question - Your success here in Libby addressing the asbestos contamination appears to be based on facing the facts and distributing them within the community. How do you see the other states doing in this regard?
Answer - I am too new at this subject to know much about what is happening in other states.

Audience Member Question - How could others benefit from the Libby experience?
Answer - People should take responsibility for where they live. They should, as you have said, face the facts and share them within their communities. There is a lot that can be learned from the experience here in Libby.

TAG Report
Gayla Benefield reported on behalf of the TAG. The TAG has issued a job announcement for a technical advisor. Several responses have been received, all from people outside of Libby. Helen Clarke chairs the selection committee which is reviewing the applications. The TAG hopes to have a technical advisor selected before the September 14 - 15 workshop. The TAG Board of Directors currently has eleven members, including two from Troy. The Board can be expanded if others are interested in serving on it.

CAG Member Question - Will the technical advisor be accessible to people in Libby?
Answer - Based on applications to date, the advisor is not likely to be a resident of Libby. The TAG has not considered such access to be a requirement. The advisor=s duties will be to read and translate technical documents to lay language.

CAG Member Question - Will the TAG be able to pose questions to the technical advisor?
Answer - Yes.

CARD Clinic Report
Dr. Brad Black reported on behalf of the CARD Clinic on the following topics.

Open House - Dr. Black invited everyone to tomorrow=s open house at the CARD Clinic which will be held from 4:30 to 8:00 p.m. Among other topics, we will have posters addressing the uniqueness of the Libby asbestos fiber.

Zonolite Study - This study has been completed. It allowed AB-Readers@ to review chest x-rays taken of Zonolite workers. The readers were able to study how asbestos-related disease appears on x-ray films and how progression of the disease shows on the films. X-rays were available of workers over time. The B-Readers looked first at the latest x-rays and then reviewed a time sequence of earlier films. This study has allowed the academic community to understand what went on here.

Mesothelioma Blood Markers - Dr. Harvey Pass, who is the Chief Thoracic Surgeon at New York University Hospital, and Dr. Black are co-investigators of a study of mesothelioma blood markers in different populations of people exposed to asbestos fiber. Data from Australia indicates that a blood marker begins to elevate a year in advance of the evidence of the disease.

CARD Finances - The CARD depends on receiving fees for its services. Funding is becoming a bigger issue as the W.R. Grace Health Plan (Plan) diminishes. Apparently, 135 people are about to be dropped by HNA from the Plan. This loss of patient reimbursement will impact the entire medical system in Libby. This does not mean, however, that the CARD or St. John's Lutheran Hospital will stop treating patients.

CAG Member Comment - W.R. Grace continues to generate revenue of about $1 billion per year. This company should be required to pay all health care costs of Libby people resulting from the asbestos exposure.

CAG Member Comment - Although it is apparently dropping people from coverage under the Plan, HNA is recently announced a new benefit. The Plan will now pay for autopsies.

CAG Member Comment - All most of us have to help us pay for our medical expenses is the Plan. We need to continue to pursue the declaration of a public health emergency under the federal Superfund statute to receive funding for health care costs.

CAG Member Comment - Rural health care in general is being marginalized. Here in Libby, our health care system will face a huge impact if we are forced to take on the load of asbestos related disease treatment without funding help.

Community Involvement Conference
Gayla Benefield reported that she recently attended an EPA sponsored conference entitled "Building Bridges from Strong Partnerships" in Buffalo, New York. People she met there were aware of, impressed with, and care about Libby.

Audience Member Question - What is happening regarding the federal asbestos legislation?
Answer - Nothing is happening this month. An effort may be made to push the legislation through in September.

Audience Member Question - Is Libby in or out of the current draft?
Answer - We were in for a day, but the eligibility criteria were again changed to exclude coverage of people in Libby.

UM Asbestos Conference Report

Dr. Brad Black presented highlights of the conference entitled "A New Directions and Needs in Asbestos Research" which the University of Montana Center for Environmental Health Sciences held on July 28-29, 2005. Libby was well represented. The number of researchers in asbestos disease has been diminishing, and the conference was held in part in an effort to reinvigorate interest in this area. The conference began with a presentation by Helen Clarke about the importance of community collaboration in the provision of health care in Libby, a rural community. It continued with a report by Rita Messing of the Minnesota Department of Health about community exposure from a vermiculite expansion plant in Minneapolis. She found many exposure pathways common to our experience in Libby. She needs additional support to document the health impacts from specific pathways. Pat Cohan discussed research in Libby and the need for respecting privacy when sharing health care data. Using the Libby experience, Tanis Hernandez talked about the pycosocial impacts of a man-made disaster as opposed to a natural disaster. Dr. Stephen Levin discussed the health effects suffered by the responders to the collapse of World Trade Center. Many are suffering respiratory problems. Amy Rohs reported on a follow-up study of 300 Scott workers who were exposed twenty-five years ago to Libby vermiculite in the manufacture of lawn and garden products. This study is significant because of its ability to estimate worker exposures. It found that 25% of the workers had plural disease and that even those with low exposure levels showed lung changes. Dr. Harvey Pass presented information about mesothelioma blood markers.

CAG Member Question - Why is interest in research in asbestos disease diminishing?
Answer - The perception has been that this disease is disappearing as asbestos exposure has declined. In medical school in the 1970s, we were told that we not would see asbestos disease. Along with this perception, research funding in this area has been reduced. Interest in research generally responds to funding.

CAG Member Comment - Over the next three years and two months of the Bush Administration, federal government interest in asbestos research will continue to decline.

CAG Member Comment - Asbestos-related research is bucking up against the interests of both big business and big government. Research defining how toxic this asbestos fiber is and what diseases it causes may threaten the interests of the asbestos industry.

CAG Member Comment - The environmental and occupational exposure we suffered in Libby was preventable. We need compensation for this disease in the form of research funding. The CAG should write a letter to Senator Baucus and the other members of the Montana Congressional delegation seeking funding for asbestos-related disease research.

CAG Member Comment - When he visited Libby some time back, an Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services promised help with identifying and providing for our health care needs. The letter should reference this promise.

CAG Action - The CAG agreed with the idea of sending a letter to the Montana delegation seeking support for research funding and requested Clinton Maynard and Dr. Black to draft such a letter for consideration at the next CAG meeting.

Audience Member Comment - Thank you to Dr. Black and Dr. Whitehouse for their personal involvement on our behalf.

Lupus Survey
Helen Clarke announced that Dr. Jean Pfau of the UM Center for Environmental Health Sciences is seeking to survey people in Libby who have been diagnosed with Lupus disease to begin to develop a data base to compare the incidence of this disease with asbestos exposure. Dr. Tony Ward, also with the Center, is seeking to survey Libby people with wood burning stoves in their house.

Public Comment
There was no additional public comment.

Next Meeting
The next CAG meeting was scheduled for 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. on Thursday, September 15, 2005 in the Ponderosa Room of Libby City Hall.

Appendix 1

CAG Member & Guest Attendance List
August 11, 2005

Members Group                                     Organization Represented

Bill Patten                                              St. John's Lutheran Hospital
Clinton Maynard                                    Area Asbestos Research Group
David Latham                                        The Montanian Newspaper
Wendy Thomi                                        EPA Community Involvement
Catherine LeCours                                DEQ
Dr. Brad Black                                        Lincoln County Health Officer/CARD
Gayla Benefield                                      LCAVRO/TAG/ARD Net
Gary D. Swenson                                   Libby Volunteer Fire Department
Eileen Carney                                        Montana Board of Respiratory Care Practitioners
Norita Skramstad                                   Asbestos Victim

Libby Community Advisory Group

Meeting Summary

September 15, 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:

  • W. R. Grace Medical Plan Letters
  • Presentation by Dr. Tony Ward
  • Agency Reports
  • - EPA
    CARD Clinic
  • EPA Administrator's Visit
  • Delegation Research Funding Letter
  • Public Comment

W. R. Grace Medical Plan Letters
Dr. Alan Whitehouse, Dr. Brad Black, Tanis Hernandez, and LeRoy Thom reported on letters that members of the W.R. Grace Medical Plan (Plan) have recently received from HNA, the Plan Administrator. Dr. Black described the letters, which are included below in Appendix 2, as confusing and upsetting and not in the best interest of Libby people. He stated that the CARD Clinic has been fighting battles with HNA to get people covered by the Plan as a part of the Clinic's efforts to find resources to support asbestos-related health care. 

Tanis Hernandez summarized the letters which many but not all Plan members have received. There are two versions of the letter. One letter informs the recipient that she or he has "no findings" of an asbestos-related disease, but is being kept on the Plan. The other letter states that the recipient has some asbestos-related disease condition or illness. Ms. Hernandez also stated that beginning in July of this year, the Plan benefits have been greatly limited. Only one annual check up per year is guaranteed to be covered within the specified limits of the plan and the coverage of all other benefits will be determined by HNA case-by-case.

Dr. Whitehouse then provided perspective about the meaning of the letters. He stated that most research to date has been conducted on chrysotile asbestos. This is the form of asbestos found in 95% of the commercial uses in the US in products such as pipe insulation and brake linings. A large majority of the chrysotile asbestos comes from Canada. Lung-related health effects of chrysotile have two forms, scaring of tissue inside the lung which progresses slowly into serious disease and plural plaque on the surface of the lung. A single plural plaque is used as a marker of asbestos exposure, but plural plaque often does not result in serious disease. The asbestos industry has attempted to classify asbestos effects as plural plaque in an effort to avoid paying compensation to victims of asbestos exposure. Libby asbestos is a different form of asbestos known as amphibole. Available research on amphibole mainly has been conduced in Australia and South Africa. Libby asbestos produces much different effects in the lung than chrysotile. Amphibole disease affects the lung lining and produces 10 to 100 times more scarring (plaques). While disease in Libby runs the spectrum including asbestosis, plural plaque and mesothelioma, the majority of disease in Libby is plural disease and results in severe restriction of lung volume. HNA does not classify plural plaque as asbestos disease implying that not much is wrong when in fact plural disease can be very serious. Dr. Whitehouse stated that he has been fighting on behalf of Libby patients for five years and in court more generally for twenty years to prevent denial of benefits. HNA is classifying disease looking only at x-rays when the American Thoracic Society recommends looking at other factors as well including exposure history, the latency period, pulmonary function tests, and medical symptomology and history.

Audience Member Question - What do we do now?
Answer - Bring your situation to the attention of your medical provider and your lawyer.

Audience Member Question - How do we afford treatment without insurance?
Answer - The CARD will provide treatment. We need to be creative about finding funding to reimburse our costs. We have, for example, been looking to LAMP for funds. The CARD Clinic needs the support of this community.

Audience Member Question - Is there any appeal if HNA denies coverage under the Plan?
Answer- While one of two letters states that the recipient does not have asbestos-related disease, it does not remove the person from the Plan. The motive for this action is not clear.

LeRoy Thom read from the document included below in Appendix 3 which includes the February 11, 2000 letter from W. R. Grace CEO Paul Norris which was published in the Western Montana News and Mr. Thom's statement in response to the HNA letters. He stated that W.R. Grace should not be in charge of their own health plan. The Libby Asbestos Medical Plan (LAMP), referred to earlier by Dr. Black has paid out $313,000 to fund treatment and screening not provided by the W.R. Grace Medical Plan. However, LAMP has restrictions on its ability to pay including a $25,000 per person payment cap. LAMP also is subject to restrictions from W.R. Grace due to their close monitoring and auditing of LAMP. Libby needs to make a decision about how to proceed as a community. We need a trust fund run by the community to receive money from governmental and philanthropic sources to provide funding for health care. We could set up a committee to look into the trust idea and more generally to identify what Libby needs and what should be done in response to those needs. Commissioner Marianne Roose also stated that Senator Baucus is aware of the HNA letters and is seeking to attach a rider to legislation to assure funding for Libby asbestos-related health care. Mr. Thom proposed that the CAG send a letter of support for Senator Baucus' efforts.

Comment by Marianne Roose - I called, emailed, and faxed the Governor's Office in an attempt to get someone to come to this meeting tonight, but I wasn't successful.

Audience Member Question - What would be the level of commitment of a member of the committee?
Answer - The people who volunteer to serve would have to be dedicated.

Audience Member Question - What time frame are we considering?
Answer - We should send a letter to Senator Baucus in a week or so. We should begin work on the more general committee as soon as we can.

Audience Member Question - What about Social Security, could it be a source of funding for asbestos-related health care?
Answer by Tanis Hernandez - Social Security is not likely to be the answer for our funding needs. To receive funding one has to be severely disabled, and qualifying can take many years.

Audience Member Question - You mentioned that the Plan allows reimbursement for only one chest x-ray per year. Does this limitation also apply to CT-scans?
Answer by Tanis Hernandez - I am not sure. A one per year limitation for x-rays and CT-scans is what is "guaranteed" in the plan document. It is stated that everything else is case by case, so nothing is guaranteed; it is always up to HNA.

Audience Member Question - What can be done to get W.R. Grace to pay for health care?
Answer - W.R. Grace should pay, but look at the February 2000 letter. They do not do what they say they will. They are hiding under a cloak of bankruptcy. The lawyers in Kalispell are putting together a case for the bankruptcy court.

Audience Member Comment - According to Forbes Magazine, the W.R. Grace CEO receives the third highest compensation of any American company.

Audience Member Question - Could the trust fund come under LAMP?
Answer by LeRoy Thom - LAMP is a program of the Asbestos Related Health Care Project (ARHCP), which is a 501(c)(3). While ARHCP can receive funds, I do not know whether it could establish and administer a trust fund. I will find out.

Audience Member Question - Could LAMP author a petition of support for Senator Baucus' efforts?
Answer by LeRoy Thom - The CAG as representative of the community should send a letter rather than LAMP.

CAG Member Question - What should the letter say?
Answer - We should mention the two HNA letters and the reduction in benefits and support any legislative effort to help us with our health care needs.

Comment by Dr. Black - When Health and Human Services Deputy Secretary Claude Allen visited us some years back, he promised us help with health care funding if we needed it. He didn't see an immediate need because of the W.R. Grace Medical Plan. When EPA Administrator Johnson visited here recently, I sat next to him at lunch and reminded him of our need for HHS dollars. He said that he would visit with HHS Secretary Leavitt.

CAG Action - The CAG agreed to send a letter to Senator Baucus and the other members of the Montana Congressional delegation supporting his efforts to obtain health care funding for Libby. David Latham agreed to draft the letter based on the comments read earlier in the meeting by Mr. Thom (see Appendix 3). A sheet was passed through the CAG and the audience for signatures to send with the letter. The letter is to be sent in a week. The CAG also agreed to the formation of a committee to begin to explore establishing a community administered trust fund to hold funds for asbestos-related health care.

Dr. Tony Ward Presentation
Dr. Ward is a Research Assistant Professor in the University of Montana Center for Environmental Health Sciences. At the May 2005 CAG meeting, he described research to determine a safe way to log tree stands in the restricted area around the W.R. Grace mine. A bark sampling plan has been developed in conjunction with the US Forest Service, Lincoln County, EPA, CDM, and the Montana Department of Environmental Quality. The plan involves sampling bark of trees at different points on concentric circles at varying distances from the mine site. Bark samples will be taken at different heights above the ground. The sampling will determine if a gradient of asbestos contamination exists in tree bark emanating from the mine site. Dr. Ward noted that the CAG had asked for sampling in town. These samples have since been collected, with the samples currently being analyzed. Dr. Ward also announced that ATSDR has provided funding to conduct additional bark sampling in Libby.

Audience Member Question - Would you be willing to go to bat for us in challenging timber sales if the USFS offers timber in the restricted area around the mine?
Answer - I will always be available to objectively present the data or make recommendations when appropriate, but timber sales decisions lie outside my realm of expertise. As a scientist, it is my job to gather and present scientific data of the highest quality, from which such decisions can be made.

Comment by Catherine LeCours - The USFS is not planning such sales.

Audience Member Question - Are you planning to study the wind data and attempt to trace asbestos concentrations backwards in time?
Answer - From a previous meeting in Libby, I have learned that Jim Christiansen has suggested that tree concentrations may be a surrogate for determining soil concentration gradients from the mine. Asbestos in trees may enable us to trace exposures back to decade-long time periods, such as between the 80s-90s, etc (10 year increments). The University of Montana is also proposing to do some atmospheric modeling that will determine the extent of any asbestos plume in the Libby valley which might emanate from the mine site, and potentially provide some information on historical asbestos exposures.

Audience Member Question - Would asbestos in the trees present an exposure pathway for loggers?
Response by Peggy Churchill - This is not a known exposure pathway.

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

Cleanup Numbers - This year to date, EPA has completed cleanups on a total of 160 Libby properties. Task orders for additional cleanups have been issued to three companies, ER, Libby Restoration and EQM.

Helipad Cleanup - Cleanup of the helipad is continuing.

September 14 and 15 Workshop - For the past two days, EPA has conducted a workshop in Libby on the Superfund process and several technical cleanup issues.

October 11 Pubic Meeting - On Tuesday, October 11, at 6:30 p.m. EPA will conduct a public meeting in Libby to discuss where we have been and where we are going regarding the cleanups. We will discuss the preparation of the cleanup record of decision. Public comment on the decision document will be needed. Max Dodson, the Assistant Region 8 Administrator will be in attendance. Mr. Dodson is the official empowered to sign the record of decision.

Audience Member Comment - Our home and yard was recently cleaned by ER. The work was well done and went quickly. We now have a yard more beautiful than before the cleanup.

Audience Member Comment - When will cleanups be shut down for the winter?
Answer - As in past years, actual cleanups will stop during the winter, this year from December 1 to late February or early March. CDM staff will remain here over the winter.

New Assignment - Wendy Thomi reminded that CAG that she has accepted a one year temporary assignment in EPA Region 2 and the World Trade Center Team. This meeting will be her last in Libby. She introduced Ted Linnert who is her replacement. Mr. Linnert said that he is looking forward to working with the people of Libby, and that it will be hard to fill Ms. Thomi's shoes.

State Report
Catherine LeCours stated that there was no state report.

TAG Report
The TAG has hired a new technical advisor, Dr. Gerry M. Henningsen. Dr. Henningsen has a Doctor of Philosophy Degree and a Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine. He is a toxicologist who formerly worked for EPA and the Public Health Service. He now lives in Indiana.

CARD Clinic Report

Dr. Black and Dr. Whitehouse have visited the Karmanos Cancer Center and next week travel to the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation (MARF) conference in Las Vegas. MARF just issued a press release about the work Dr. Harvey Pass and Dr. Black are conducting regarding a mesothelioma blood marker. The press release can be found at

EPA Administrator's Visit
LeRoy Thom reported that EPA Administrator Johnson visited Libby for four hours on August 24, 2005. Peggy Churchill stated that he made a tour of the cleanup sites, and that while the visit was brief, it was useful in assuring the cleanup budget. Dr. Black noted that he sat next to the Administrator over lunch and was able to visit with him in more depth than expected. Dr. Black was able to emphasize the difference in the Libby asbestos fiber and in the disease that exposure to it produces.

Delegation Research Funding Letter
In the absence of Clinton Maynard, who volunteered to draft the letter for the CAG, this item was postponed.

Public Comment
There was no additional public comment.

Next Meeting
The next CAG meeting was scheduled for 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. on Thursday, October 13, 2005 in the Ponderosa Room of Libby City Hall.

Appendix 1

CAG Member & Guest Attendance List
September 15, 2005

Members Group/Organization Represented

Bill Patten                                                    St. John's Lutheran Hospital
K.W. Maki                                                     Libby Schools
Mike Giesey                                                 CARD Clinic
Ken Hays                                                     Senior Citizens
David Latham                                              The Montanian Newspaper
Ted Linnert                                                  EPA Community Involvement
Wendy Thomi                                               EPA Community Involvement
Peggy Churchill                                            EPA Project Manager
Catherine LeCours                                      DEQ
Dr. Brad Black                                              Lincoln County Health Officer/CARD
LeRoy Thom                                                 Former Grace Employee
Gary D. Swenson                                         Libby Volunteer Fire Department
Les Skramstad                                             Asbestos Victim

John Wardell                                               EPA Montana Office
Alan Whitehouse                                        CARD Clinic
Dr. Tony Ward                                             University of Montana Center for Environmental Health Sciences

Appendix 2
HNA Letters

Appendix 3

In The Western News, February 11, 2000, the following message was delivered:

"To the People of Libby and all Montanans:
Much concern has been raised about the former vermiculite mine in Libby, which was operated by Grace from 1963 to 1990. I take these concerns very seriously.
It is not possible in this space to address all of the issues that have been raised. But I do want you to know our fundamental position.
First and foremost, we must be honest and respectful of one another.
Second, the community and people of Libby deserve our support. To provide it we have committed to the following:
  Grace will donate up to $250.000 a year for the foreseeable future to St. Johns Lutheran Hospital to provide independent health screening to anyone in Libby who is concerned about asbestos exposure.
  Grace will assure St. Johns has the necessary staff and technology to conduct the independent screenings.
  Grace will provide medical coverage to anyone in Libby who, after receiving an independent screening, is diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease.
Third, we will continue to work cooperatively with local, state and federal agencies to ensure that appropriate actions taken to protect and preserve the health of those associated with the mine.
Finally, we will honor this commitment even if people are involved in legal action or in the alternative dispute resolution process. We will honor this commitment whether or not the pending national legislation passes.
We have always trusted the people of Montana. We always will. You may be sure that throughout these difficult times, we will continue to work to earn your trust.

Sincerely, (signature) Paul Norris, CEO, W. R. Grace & Co."

While the people of Libby have found out through the years about W. R. Grace's honesty, respect, and trustworthiness, the time has now come to understand the depth to which Grace will go to undermine this community. Not only have they destroyed our environment, they are now working to destroy the very dignity of our people. Not only do they dispute financial responsibility for the cleanup, but also now they are working to determine if you are sick or not because of exposure to Libby asbestos-laden vermiculite.

From afar, Grace's hired radiologists (frequently used by industry in court cases) are telling you if you have asbestosis, asbestos related disease (ARD), or other abnormalities. Then the claims administrator "plays doctor" with your life and the provision of medical coverage they promised you would have if diagnosed with ARD. Directly stated in their new plan document (July 1, 2005) on page 7. Paraphrased as "The claims administrator makes all determinations and will consider (at it's discretion) information, documentation, diagnosis and peer review. The claims administrator determinations in this regard will be final and binding on all parties. This allows the claims administrator to make determinations without following the standards established by American Thoracic Society (an organization of lung specialists). This sets the stage to further diminish their responsibility for your medical future.

Many of you recently received a letter, dated September 6, 2005, regarding interpretations of your findings from the W R. Grace Libby Medical Program. There were two versions of the letter, along with individual reports. These letters classify you in one of two groups -those with an asbestos related condition or illness or those with no findings of asbestos related conditions. Along with your report, there is a summary of the benefits Grace will now pay. These benefits have been scaled back over the years, especially with the new plan document that was just released last month. Now the unquestionable benefits consist of an annual checkup, pharmacy, and a limited number of health club membership, but everything else is left up to interpretation by the W.R. Grace Libby Medical Program. So just don't get sick! And, be sure to contact them for further consultation and assistance!

The letters have worked to scare people, and to discredit the work of the entire medical community that deeply cares about the people harmed by asbestos from the Zonolite mine. You and your doctor look at your total health picture to determine your disease or well-being. There are many facets of diagnosing ARD, but Grace only reviewed the X-rays and CT scans. The letter may lead you to believe you are not suffering from ARD, but your body may be telling you something different.

At this time, the community must once again go shoulder to shoulder, stand by each other, not to diagnose disease: but to hold W. R. Grace accountable for what they knowingly did to our people. With a united voice, we cannot allow Grace to continue theft dirty tricks to turn us against each other. The bottom line is that if Grace can get out of paying for the health care benefits that this community deserves, because of the underlying asbestos exposure and ARD that make people vulnerable to other health complications and sickness, they will have gone a long way to crippling the entire health care delivery system in Libby. The LAMP Safety Net can only go so far.

The typical response to this letter has been confusion, anger, and frustration. The medical language is not understood by the patient and his/her family, and much can be read into the findings, good or bad. The reports are sometimes two years old, some as much as five years old. Why are they coming now? Could it be timing for the bankruptcy court, or the federal indictments, or the recent request to move the trial out of Montana because of negative publicity towards them? Could it be setting the stage for denying even more claims? Could it be to lull people into a false sense of well-being, or to confuse and distract people about what disease(s) they really have?

Tonight we will openly discuss the community's response to this latest barrage by Grace. But, above all, we know this community will rally around its citizens, stand firm, and help each other to take care of our people.

Photos courtesy of Dudley Dana, Dana Gallery