Montana Public Radio

Libby Montana

Hospital monitor.
Josh Burnham / Montana Public Radio

Montana’s rural critical access hospitals are struggling as COVID-19 patients fill beds and strain staffing resources. Larger hospitals are at times unable to take patients.

Frank Fahland has spent most days since the pandemic began at the site of his dream house, working to finish a 15-year labor of love while keeping away from town and the people closest to him.

Like thousands of people from Libby and Lincoln County, in the far northwestern corner of Montana, the 61-year-old Fahland has lungs already scarred by years of breathing in the asbestos fibers that have contaminated the area's dust and soil. The asbestos is a legacy of a now-defunct plant in the area that made vermiculite, a mineral used in insulation and gardening.

'Not A Big Deal'

Oct 5, 2020

This story is republished with permission from Montana Free Press.

LIBBY — Donald Trump fans in the northwestern corner of Montana were unfazed on Oct. 2 by the news that the president and first lady have tested positive for the coronavirus.

“It doesn’t bother me,” Morgan Mallory said. “It’s not a big deal.”

Libby Superfund map.
US Environmental Protection Agency

A proposed agreement charging BNSF Railway Company with the operation and maintenance of the Libby Asbestos Superfund unit running along its tracks was announced Tuesday by federal and state officials.

The view southeast over the McKillop Creek Road near Libby, Montana.
Chris Boyer / Kestrelaerial.com

Last week, federal officials announced a proposal maintaining public access on 100,000 acres of private timber lands in northwest Montana belonging to Southern Pine Plantations. On Wednesday, a joint statement by state officials and a nonprofit said the two are working together on an another, even-larger easement.

Map showing the proposed Lost Trail Conservation Area
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Federal officials are proposing 100,000 acres of conservation easements in Northwest Montana to maintain public access on recently sold private timber lands.

A hallway in Willow Creek Elementary School.
courtesy

Some small public schools reopened their doors to students Thursday, although with new guidelines. Montana is still in the first phase of its reopening plans as the number of confirmed active cases of COVID-19 declines in the state.

Libby Montana.
Nora Saks / Montana Public Radio

The state of Montana was slated to take control of part of the Libby Asbestos Superfund site from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on April 1. But because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, that transfer is being postponed indefinitely.

Downtown Libby, MT.
libbymt.com

The Montana Supreme Court ruled largely in favor of roughly 1,200 plaintiffs Wednesday that say BNSF railway should be held liable for its part in contaminating Libby with asbestos. But, the court didn’t outline exactly what activities the railway could be held liable for, and to what extent.

Libby Superfund map.
US Environmental Protection Agency

The Environmental Protection Agency says another Libby Asbestos Superfund Site unit is ready to be delisted. The public has 30 days to comment on delisting the former vermiculite export plant.

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