Montana Public Radio

Libby Asbestos Cleanup Closer To Conclusion

Nov 20, 2015

The EPA’s report concluded that it’s possible to live and work in Libby and Troy without concern of suffering from the respiratory diseases associated with asbestos. It confirms findings released in a preliminary report eleven months ago.

The EPA’s Deborah McKean said, “The cleanup that we have been conducting over the past number of years is indeed protective and the risks and exposures experienced by the population before the cleanup has been abated.”

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Usually, an EPA risk assessment like the one released today is announced before cleanup work begins. The assessment then guides the future work. But in the case of Libby, EPA officials didn’t want to wait to start cleanups.

“We started doing the removal on the properties and other business areas early on in the process so that we could mitigate exposures as much as possible,” she said. 

In 1999 the EPA responded to requests from the State of Montana and the Lincoln County Board of Health to investigate potential exposure to asbestos because of former mine operations in the area.

In 2002 Libby was added to the Superfund National Priority List.

Since then, the EPA has investigated more than 7,000 properties within the Superfund site for asbestos contamination, but is still waiting for access to another 700. The EPA encourages the remaining property owners to contact the EPA’s Libby Information Office at 406-293-6194.

EPA officials estimate another three to five years of cleanup in Libby.