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:
Jim Christiansen reported on behalf of EPA on the following topics.
General Cleanup - This year to date, EPA has completed cleanups of a total of 190 Libby properties, the highest annual total to date. We are on schedule and on budget to complete 200 properties this year. Cleanup activity will stop about Thanksgiving and begin again sometime next February. We have not yet received funding for next year, but we are promised $17 million. We expect the next installment of funds in a couple of weeks. Remedial Investigation/Feasibility Study - We have completed the sampling that will go into the Remedial Investigation/Feasibility Study (RIFS), and the analysis of the air, dust, and soil samples is on schedule. The analysis should be finished by November 15. Several interim reports will be issued prior to the RIFS, including:
An ambient air report covering the asbestos sampling of the Libby air. We've stated previously that ambient air - meaning the general air in Libby that you might breathe walking down the street - is not a health concern. This report will detail the rationale for our position.
A performance evaluation which discusses the analytical techniques used to sample asbestos in soils.
The quality assurance/quality control report that will describe the program we've used to ensure that our sampling techniques were sound and accurate and measured what we were targeting.
A report on the contaminant screening study that will describe the screening of Libby properties for visible vermiculite, asbestos contaminated soils, etc.
These reports will be available at the EPA Information Center and the EPA Libby web site. These reports will be made available to the TAG for its review.
After the RI/FS report is complete, EPA will release a proposed plan for public comment. The proposed plan summarizes EPA's decision making process and sets forth our preferred alternative for additional cleanup. We hope to have the RI/FS done by the end of the year, and the proposed plan will follow after the holidays. There will be at least a sixty day comment period. At some sites, the proposed plan is about ten pages long. At Libby, it will likely be considerably longer so that it provides sufficient detail for most people. If people want more detail, they can consult the RI/FS itself, the other interim reports, and the administrative record. All of these will be available at the EPA Information Center. During the public comment period, a public meeting will be held. EPA must respond to all written and oral comments received during the comment period. EPA will issue the record of decision (ROD) on the remedial asbestos cleanups in the spring of 2006. We will continue to use the print and radio and TV media to keep the people of Libby informed about coming activities.
Mr. Christiansen announced that he will be leaving the Libby team and EPA early next year and will move to Florida.
Audience Member Question - At the public meeting earlier this week, a woman who runs a restaurant said that the building is leaking vermiculite. What is happening at this building?
Answer - The building owner originally approached EPA and asked for an immediate cleanup. We told him cleanup of his building is scheduled for next spring. He decided not to wait and opened the ceiling causing the vermiculite leakage. This is a situation we are seeking to avoid. We cannot clean every building at once. We do not want to create the precedent that the squeaky wheel gets the grease. We have talked with the owner and have sampled the building and have agreed to conduct the cleanup now. We recognize that most people are not malicious, but they do make mistakes. People should not attempt their own cleanups to jump the gun on the cleanup schedule. If they do so and endanger the public as a result, they may be subject to lawsuits and may also become a responsible for cleanup costs. We will publish and question and answer in the newspaper to discuss this situation.
Audience Member Question - Will you update us on the mine site cleanup?
Answer - We have a new project manager for the mine cleanup, Bonnie Lavelle. Ms. Lavelle is an experienced manager with strength in the areas of risk assessment and sample analysis. She is presently wrapping up work at a large Superfund site in Colorado. She will soon begin work on developing a sampling strategy for the mine. We plan to create a working group of stakeholders in the mine cleanup to assist Ms. Lavelle with the investigation plan. Members of this working group will include representatives of the US Forest Service, the US Geological Service, Plum Creek, the University of Montana, the State, and W.R. Grace. We intend to scope out the investigation plan slowly, keeping all of these interests on board. At this point, we are hopeful that W.R. Grace will fund and conduct the cleanup. We will have to negotiate a consent agreement with W.R. Grace to conduct the work. We may have a work plan in early 2006. Actual cleanup will probably take one to two years. We will go through the RI/FS and ROD process for the mine cleanup.
CAG Member Comment - Mr. Christiansen did a great job at the public meeting explaining to the community the evolution of the EPA cleanup actions in Libby to date.
Catherine LeCours reported that the state has issued a task order to Tetra Tech EM Inc. to identify the houses in Troy that will need cleanup.
Helen Clarke reported on behalf of the TAG that it has turned over a number of documents to its technical advisor for review. The TAG is also working with the county and the cities of Libby and Troy to determine in whose domain a community resource specialist would fall.
CARD Clinic Report
Dr. Black reported that he, Dr. Whitehouse, and Pat Cohan attended the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation (MARF) conference in Las Vegas, and made a poster presentation there. This meeting is unique because of the involvement of mesothelioma patients and their families. This involvement helps keep the scientists properly focused. We did answer questions about Libby and the mesothelioma blood marker study. Dr. Black stated that he was impressed by the painful risks that patients have been willing to endure to help develop treatments for mesothelioma. Pat Cohan announced that on Friday, October 21 the Clinic would be open to volunteers willing to donate blood samples for the study. Five hundred volunteers are needed who have experienced exposure to asbestos together with five hundred who had minimum or no exposure.
Audience Member Question - Do we have additional information about the HNA W.R. Grace health plan letter?
Answer - We have had communication with our Congressional delegation about this subject. They are battling with W.R. Grace which continues to be a company with considerable influence in Washington DC. It is important for the Libby community to voice its support for our delegation.
Audience Member Question - Did the letter to the delegation regarding the HNA Plan get sent, and have we had a response?
Answer by David Latham - I prepared a draft of the letter right after the last CAG meeting and emailed it to LeRoy Thom and Tanis Hernandez for their comments. My understanding is that they modified the letter and mailed it the next day. We have not yet had a reply.
Audience Member Comment - We have not been able to get a declaration of a public health emergency for Libby. However, declarations were issued in response to hurricanes Katrina and Rita. We now have a precedent for such declarations. We need to continue to work for one here. Also, the pharmaceutical company MERC has a plan by which people can get a 20-50% reduction in prescription drug costs. This might help people here.
The next CAG meeting was scheduled for 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. on Thursday, November10, 2005 in the Ponderosa Room of Libby City Hall.
CAG Member & Guest Attendance List
September 15, 2005
Members Group/Organization Represented
K.W. Maki Libby Schools
Ken Hays Senior Citizens
Ted Linnert EPA Community Involvement
David Latham The Montanian Newspaper
Dr. Brad Black Lincoln County Health Officer/CARD
Catherine LeCours DEQ
Jim Christiansen EPA On Site Coordinator
Peggy Churchill EPA Project Manager
Photos courtesy of Dudley Dana, Dana Gallery