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LATAG working to represent all community interests

| September 14, 2005 12:00 AM

To the Editor:

What is LATAG?

The Libby Area Technical Assistant Group (LATAG) is a diverse group of western Montanans who have volunteered to work with the EPA, the responsible party(ies) and others to try to make the Superfund process and cleanup options understandable for all.

Technical assistance committees are established under Superfund to provide technical assistance to local communities in areas in and around Superfund sites.

The easiest way to understand the role of a technical assistance committee in Superfund is to think of a triangle with a represented party at each point. In the instance of the Libby Superfund process, the EPA represents the federal government (all citizens), W.R. Grace represents its own and its investors' interests as the party allegedly responsible for the site, and LATAG represent the interests of the local community. The goal is for all three parties U.S. citizens at large, W.R. Grace, and local citizens to have input into and impact on the EPA's final decision regarding cleanup.

Our specific charge from the EPA is to hire independent scientific experts to review documents, conduct studies, and collect data on behalf of the local community. Once that portion of our role has been completed, we are to inform the public by making available government studies, W.R. Grace studies, and our own independent studies about contaminants in Lincoln County and their various impacts, and to promote public involvement in the Superfund process. We are also to inform local citizens about cleanup options, meetings and how to contact those influential in choosing a course of action.

LATAG's review, science and public information efforts are funded by the Technical Assistance Grant program. This program was created by the federal government in 1986 to help promote public involvement in the Superfund process at the local level. Through this program, LATAG is allowed to apply for grants. Grants are funded through the EPA by the party responsible for the site.

LATAG operates separate from CDM, Volpe, or other cleanup contractors or the EPA. We are an independent group of citizens working on behalf of local residents, ensuring the communities most affected by the EPA's decisions to have access to objective information. Our mission is to present that information so that residents can reach informed opinions and make those opinions known. In addition, LATAG can question or criticize the methods, findings, and conclusions of CDM, Volpe, independent contractors and/or the EPA.

LATAG meets the second Tuesday of each month at Lincoln County Campus from 7-9 p.m., and is open to the public. If you have questions regarding LATAG's role or would like to comment directly to us, please attend one of our meetings or contact a LATAG board member. You may also write to us at P.O. Box 53, Libby, MT, 59923.

LATAG Board Members

Gayla Benefield, LeRoy Thom, Mike Noble, JoEllyn Brus, Abe Troyer, Jan Meadows, Eileen Carney, Les Skramstad, Tony Brown and Helen Clarke.