MTPR

Libby Montana

The Libby eagle sits above downtown Libby, Montana.
Nicky Ouellet

In about a year, the Environmental Protection Agency will leave Libby, where it’s worked for the last two decades to clean up asbestos contamination, a lethal byproduct leftover from W.R. Grace’s vermiculite mine. But locals in Lincoln County say the EPA packing up doesn’t necessarily mean cleanup work is done.

BNSF Railway is promoting Libby as an area ripe for new rail-reliant development. The Kootenai Business Park is one of three industrial sites nationwide BNSF is spotlighting this year.

BNSF’s Certified Sites program identifies and promotes areas it deems “shovel-ready” for new businesses to set up shop. The designation is based on an evaluation of environmental standards, available utilities and existing infrastructure. It’s meant to lower risk for companies looking to develop quickly in an area that can speedily ship goods to market.

The Wigwam Fire burning near Ennis on Aug. 15.
Inciweb

Rain in western Montana Monday did little to slow fire growth across the state.

"Well it’s a mixed blessing," said Jay Nichols, a spokesperson assigned to the Monument and Wigwam Fires burning south of Ennis. "So obviously wind isn’t a good thing, rain’s a good thing, but I don’t know that it will be a substantial amount of rain."

EPA Region 8 Administrator Doug Benevento talks to MTPR's Nora Saks in Butte.
Eric Whitney

Last summer, as head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt established a Superfund Task Force, and named Butte and Anaconda as top priorities for completion of Superfund cleanups.

When Pruitt resigned last month, many in Montana wondered what that would mean here.

On the first anniversary of the Superfund Task Force, I sat down in Butte with Doug Benevento, the top administrator for EPA Region 8, to talk about what changes at the top mean for Montana.

Montana Wildfire Roundup For July 30, 2018

Jul 30, 2018
The Lee Creek fire burning near Lolo Hot Springs was spotted July 29, 2018 from a Forest Service detection flight.
Lolo National Forest

 


Updated and corrected: 5:35 p.m., 07/30/18

Twenty fires have flared up in the Kootenai National Forest, all caused by lightning from weekend storms.

Most of the fires are only burning a few acres, but the Davis Fire is now reported at 1,000 acres in size, according to a post on the Kootenai National Forest Facebook page. A fire spokesperson told MTPR Monday afternoon that the Davis fire was only 50 acres.

A stack of logs.
(PD)

A federal appeals court has ruled in favor of an environmental group challenging a timber and forest thinning project in the Kootenai National Forest.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that that Forest Service, “acted arbitrarily and capriciously,” by failing to determine whether the East Reservoir Project will result in new roads that will exceed a cap on them meant to preserve grizzly bear habitat.

Members Of The Chloeta crew, Nolan Buckingham, Jaime Garcia and Aaron Turner at the Highway 37 fire near Libby, MT.
Nolan Buckingham

Before firefighters entered the Modified Fire Response Zone of the asbestos-contaminated forest near Libby to suppress the Highway 37 Fire, they donned full-face respirators, and recited a poem.

"You ready? When the sunlight strikes raindrops in the air, they act like a prism and form a rainbow. The rainbow is a division of white light into many beautiful colors …"

The lightning caused Mt. George Fire was discovered by a fire lookout Tuesday morning in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness.
Bitterroot National Forest

The Bacon Rind Fire, detected Friday evening above the Gallatin Canyon about 20 miles south of Big Sky is now being estimated at 202 acres. It was started by a thunderstorm that moved through the area on July 16. It is burning in the Lee Metcalf Wilderness area about two miles west Highway 191, between Bacon Rind and Snowslide Creeks. 

Firefighter safety is of particular concern on the Highway 37 Fire north of Libby because of its proximity to a patch of asbestos-contaminated forest.

Among the 50 firefighters working the blaze is a group of 10 specially trained responders. They wear respirators and undergo a full body decontamination after digging fire line in a section of forest with high levels of asbestos fibers, a harmful remnant of the old W.R. Grace vermiculite mine.

The Zulu fire is burning north of Libby in the Zulu Creek area.
Google Maps

The Zulu fire that it is believed lightning started Sunday in the Kootenai National Forest north of Libby expanded to 20 acres today.

Forest spokesman Willie Sykes tells the Flathead Beacon about 80 firefighters and several aircraft are fighting the fire. No structures are threatened.

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