The county commissioners came across an acute problem that in some ways is a result of the community not being involved in the Superfund cleanup discussions.
On the positive side, this problem may be corrected or at least fine tuned when the EPA presents the proposed clean-up plan toward the end of winter for public comment. Once this plan goes to a record of decision, an appeal or lawsuit may be the only recourse to change things.
The Libby Area Technical Assistance Group presented the concept of having a resource person available to help business owners and home owners with remodeling or new construction problems involving asbestos-contaminated vermiculite left behind by the EPA. Eventually the EPA is going to leave and take their cleanup crews and big vacuum cleaners with them.
As most people, who have been paying attention for the past five years, know, the EPA decided it wasn't removing the vermiculite or Zonolite insulation from the walls of homes or commercial buildings. The federal agency also decided along the way to not remove contaminated materials below a certain depth beneath house crawl spaces and below a deeper depth in some yards and gardens.
So instead of getting a complete bill of clean health, the community will get a "it's-cleaner-than-when-we-got-here." We're already hearing that rhetoric. And we will have the continuing need to have someone available to deal with people cutting into contaminated material in yards and walls of buildings. The EPA is willing to fund that.
Now the commissioners on Wednesday expressed concerns that a federally-funded person to help homeowners and commercial building owners deal with left-behind waste could result in creation of building codes, building inspections and like stuff in the unincorporated areas of the county where just about anything goes right now. And in time, those requirements are a very real possibility.
LATAG and EPA are not trying to make things difficult for people, they're trying to maintain a certain safety level by not having independent-minded folk spreading the same type of contamination around we just spent millions cleaning up. In other words, this resource specialist position is definitely needed.
Unless we speak with one loud and unified voice that we want it all cleaned up — from walls, beneath crawl spaces, in yards to depths of four to six feet and even the controversial dirty carpet issue.
Otherwise the community will have to continue to exist with vermiculite in our midst, with the continuing threat of impacting human health, and have a environmental resource specialist on duty in perpetuity to keep us out of trouble with this stuff.
Personally, the resource position is desperately needed as long as there is a failure to come together and voice our displeasure with anything being left behind. The choice is ours. — Roger Morris