Commissioners press for meeting with EPA regional administrator

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Anxious to resolve its outstanding Libby Asbestos Superfund site concerns, the Lincoln County Commission is pressing for a meeting with Doug Benevento, Region 8 administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency.

The meeting request, made in a letter dated Oct. 24, outlines several issues the commissioners previously have raised and reflects their frustration that the issues remain unresolved.

“Several of these topics were raised in our meeting in Libby with the Lincoln County Commissioners and others on June 4, 2018,” the letter states. “All of the topics have been raised with EPA staff at varying levels.”

The topics include long-term funding for the Superfund site’s operations and maintenance, future administration of Libby’s Public Health Emergency, the status of an EPA investigation into potential improper use of grant funds, and where financial responsibilities lie for any future cleanup issues.

The June 4 meeting took place during Benevento’s first visit to Libby since becoming administrator in October 2017. Various EPA and local officials attended.

At the meeting, Commissioner Mark Peck discussed what he called a lack of clarity in the EPA’s Record of Decision for the Superfund site concerning who is responsible for the monitoring and maintenance, and any associated costs, of the cleanup remedy the agency has spent years putting in place.

Peck also referred to a position statement the City-County Board of Health released in February asserting that “property owners will not bear the cost of any future issues” related to the site.

In response, Benevento indicated he understood concerns local officials and residents have, and brought up a principle he referred to as “delta” as a possible way to formally address those concerns.

“The ‘delta’ concept ... is a general principle we will apply going forward to make sure we develop institutional controls and (operation and maintenance) processes that account for any additional incremental homeowner costs associated with safely managing asbestos,” Rich Mylott, EPA Region 8 spokesperson, later explained in an email to The Western News.

In their letter, the commissioners requested that by year’s end a one- or two-day meeting be scheduled.

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