MTPR

vermiculite

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.

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 town of Libby. The Highway 37 Fire is burning 1.5 miles away from the former W.R. Grace vermiculite mine.
Courtesy Photo

Highway 37 fire, updated 4:20 p.m. July 20, 2018

A fire near the former vermiculite mine and a section of asbestos-contaminated forest outside Libby is drawing a quick response from crews working to control it.

The Highway 37 Fire, spotted Thursday evening about 4 miles north of Libby, quickly grew to about 50 acres today.

Eric Whitney

In Libby Tuesday, about 30 people came to hear toxicologists from the Environmental Protection Agency explain a health risk assessment released Monday.

Many locals who've followed the EPA's studies closely were already confident that there's now little health risk from living in Libby. Agency toxicologist Deborah McKean confirmed that things are very different following the half-billion dollar clean up of the town started in 2002.

Courtesy EPA

Libby Mayor Doug Roll hopes the Environmental Protection Agency's new health risk study could lead to an economic shot in the arm for the community.

Hundreds of local residents died and even more were sickened by asbestos contamination from a now-closed vermiculite mine and processing plant.

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