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Libby Community Advisory Group

Meeting Summary

May 12, 2005


Gerald Mueller and members of the Libby Community Advisory Group (CAG) introduced themselves. The CAG welcomed Bill Patten, the new CEO of St. John's Lutheran Hospital as a member. A list of the members in attendance is attached below as Appendix 1.

The CAG agreed to the following agenda for this meeting:

  • Les Skramstad Presentation
  • Dr. Andrij Holian
  • Agency reports
    CARD Clinic
  • Jim Christiansen "2005 Year in Review"
  • Public Comment

Les Skramstad Presentation
Les Skramstad stated that when he and his wife Norita and Gayla Benefield recently traveled to New York City and Washington DC, Gayla was honored with two awards. She received an award from the Workers Injury Land & Advocacy Group at its 10th annual conference in New York City. She also received the Tribute of Hope award from the Asbestos Awareness Advocacy Group in Washington DC. In receiving the latter award, she was cited for her determination and quest for justice and medical care for asbestos victims in Libby. Mr. Skramstad said that more information about the awards can be found in the Friday, May 13 edition of The Western News.

Gayla Benefield stated that Libby is being watched and admired because so many agencies and the community are working together here to address the asbestos problem, which other communities facing similar issues have not achieved. Mrs. Benefield has been invited to Reno, Nevada to address a group forming around arsenic and other contaminants. Even though the contamination does not include asbestos, this group is interested in how Libby has been successful in getting things done.

Dr. Andrij Holian Report
Dr. Andrij Holian, Director of the University of Montana Center for Environmental Health Sciences (Center), stated that he and a colleague, Dr. Tony Ward, are present this evening to honor a continuing commitment to report to the CAG about results of asbestos-related research being conducted at the Center. Dr. Holian introduced Dr. Ward who obtained his Doctor of Philosophy Degree in Chemistry from the University of Montana and has worked for the Center for over 2 years. Dr. Ward is testing a hypothesis that trees may be a reservoir of asbestos by studying asbestos contamination of trees in the area of the former W.R. Grace mine. He has sampled bark and the core of trees in three locations: about 295 feet from the former mine pump house, a location about 4 miles from the bottom of Rainy Creek Road, and a location just outside the fence near the decontamination station on the Rainy Creek Road. A map of the sampling sites will be available at the EPA Information Center. At each site, samples were taken from soil and three trees. The samples were analyzed using transmission electron microscopy at the Wadsworth Center of the New York State Department of Health. The results of the sampling are shown in the following table. The next step in this research is to formulate a sampling plan and collect tree samples in Libby and other areas in Western Montana.

Dr. Holian hopes to present results from biomedical research at the August or September CAG meeting.

Site #1- Near Mine Pump House Site #2 Site #3- Near Decontamination Station on Rainy Creek Road
Tree Sample Millions of asbestos fibers per gram of bark
530 (lodgepole pine) 160 (lodgepole pine) 41 (ponderosa pine)
330 (lodgepole pine)
140 (larch)

CAG Member Comment - It would be useful to sample areas logged during the 1960s and 1970s.

Audience Member Question - What were the results of the analysis of the core samples?
Answer by Dr. Ward - The core samples were clean.

Comment by Jim Christiansen - These results show expected higher levels of asbestos contamination near the mine and a drop in contamination as one moves away from the mine. Sample #3 was taken near the Rainy Creek Road and was therefore subject to dust contamination caused by traffic to the mine. The analysis results show just how small asbestos fibers really are - depending on the number one uses for the average weight of a fiber, a sample result of 100 million asbestos fibers per gram of bark is on the order of 0.05% by weight. That kind of level is similar to levels that we have seen around Libby. EPA will be considering the significance of these results. It's a good start to a very necessary investigation of the mine area.

Audience Question - Does the bark contamination have implications for the stove change out effort?
Answer by Dr. Ward - At this point, all I can report is the results of the fiber analysis. I cannot comment on its significance for logging or wood burning.

Dr. Holian and Dr. Ward ended their presentation by asking people with additional questions to contact them at the Center.

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

EPA Budget - Appendix 2 contains the budget information requested by Clinton Maynard at the last meeting. A copy has also been shared with D.C. Orr, who also requested it.

Berman-Crump Paper - Also, during the April CAG meeting, in response to concerns expressed by Clinton Maynard about differential toxicity of different asbestos fiber types, Mr. Christiansen promised to provide the CAG a copy of an EPA paper explaining how all of the risk factors for the different asbestos-related diseases are incorporated in the model which EPA is using to help establish cleanup levels. The name of the model is the Berman-Crump Model. The paper to which Mr. Christiansen referred was an internal EPA memo. While that memo is available, Dr. Aubrey Miller suggested preparing something less technical that would be easier for CAG members to understand. EPA will provide a more user-friendly version of the paper at the next CAG meeting.

US Senate Asbestos Cleanup - Clinton Maynard has also asked that we provide details about an asbestos cleanup that took place in the US Senate Chambers. Mr. Christiansen asked EPA Headquarters again for information, but none has been forthcoming.

Residential Cleanups - To date, 390 homes have been cleaned, including 40 this year.

J. Neils Park - The ball fields in the Park have been cleaned.

Stimson Central Maintenance Building - Cleanup of an interior wall, that was once an exterior wall, is underway. The vermiculite insulation is being removed. More details about this cleanup will be provided next month.

Contractor and Tradesmen Meeting - EPA is planning a meeting with contractors and tradesmen to address two topics. Information about the general cleanup will be discussed as well as state asbestos regulations with which contractors and tradesmen must comply. These regulations have gray areas which can be confusing. The meeting will clarify these regulations and worker safety issues. EPA views these groups as two of the most important target audiences because they often are involved with entering attics and attics with contaminated vermiculite insulation pose a definite health risk.

Outreach -The outreach program associated with the record of decision for the asbestos remediation outlined at the last CAG meeting is underway. TV ads are running and two columns have run in local newspapers. The third column will address the Superfund process. The fourth will explain CDM's role in the cleanup.

New EPA Administrator - Steve Johnson who has been the Acting Administrator has been confirmed by the Senate as the permanent Administrator. Mr. Johnson came up through the EPA He may visit Libby next month for the stove change out program.

Audience Member Question - When the new sewer and water lines were installed on the Johnson Acres property, was any contamination found?
Answer - Very little.

Audience Member Question - You stated that the tree bark asbestos concentrations associated with Dr. Ward's tree sampling were about 0.05% by weight. Would this level require cleanup?
Answer - It is difficult to say. The current numerical trigger for beginning a yard cleanup is an asbestos concentration of 1%. However, once EPA begins a cleanup, we clean up any asbestos contamination that we find. There are four "bins" of concentrations: 1% or greater; between about 0.1% and 1%; trace; and non-detect. Trace means we can see asbestos, but the levels are too low to quantify. Trace may include levels around .05%. Non-detect means no asbestos was observed. Once we start a cleanup, we remove everything we find, including trace amounts. The significance of a concentration below the 1% threshold depends on many factors and the nature of the exposure. For example, a 0.05% asbestos concentration by weight in vermiculite attic insulation may be considered a problem because of highly friable nature of the material and the exposure potential. The same 0.05% concentration in soils may not be as great a concern. The tree bark concentrations reported by Dr. Ward are something we'll consider in the future.

State Report
Catherine LeCours reported on behalf of the Montana DEQ. She stated that she is conducting community outreach.

TAG Report
Gayla Benefield reported on behalf of the TAG. A committee has been appointed to hire a new technical advisor. The committee members are: Mike Noble, Helen Clark, Abe Troyer, LeRoy Thom, and Dr. Brad Black. TAG meetings are the second Tuesday of the month prior to the CAG meeting.

CARD Clinic Report
Pat Cohan reported on behalf of the CARD Clinic. The Clinic is in its new location. The clinic hours and telephone number are the same. Jenny Bland is a new board member. The Clinic has received a HRSA grant that will allow Tanis Hernandez to receive management training.

2005 Year in Review
Jim Christiansen presented his humorous look at EPA activities in Libby this year.

Public Comment
CAG Member Comment - We will again be putting up crosses at the cemetery for victims of asbestos-related disease for Memorial Day. We will be setting out a grid for the crosses on Tuesday prior to Memorial Day and will be setting up the crosses on Wednesday. We will take the crosses down on Tuesday, after Memorial Day. We could use muscles to help put up the crosses.

CAG Member Comment - The Mayor wants to meet with the committee seeking a permanent memorial to asbestos victims. The committee includes Gary Swenson, Les Skramstad, and Helen Clark. Riverfront Park, near the ball fields and the site of the former W.R. Grace expansion plant, is being considered for the location for the memorial.

CAG Member Comment - The Montana Legislature did pass and the Governor has signed a bill providing funding for ARD-Net for another year.

CAG Member Comment - The federal asbestos legislation, the so-called "Fairness Bill" is in mark up, but it may not pass this year.

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

Appendix 1

CAG Member & Guest Attendance List
May 12, 2005

Members Group/Organization Represented

Mike Noble TAG (alternate for LeRoy Thom)
Norita Skramstad Asbestos Victim
Eileen Carney TAG and ARD Net
Gayla Benefield Lincoln County Asbestos Victims Relief Organization (LCAVRO)
Gary D. Swenson Libby Volunteer Fire Department
Catherine LeCours DEQ
Jim Christiansen EPA
Wendy Thomi EPA
Ken Hays Senior Citizens
Bill Patten St. John's Lutheran Hospital

Photos courtesy of Dudley Dana, Dana Gallery