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Cleanup workers in Libby working for everyone's future

| June 16, 2006 12:00 AM

To the Editor:

This is an open letter to the people of Libby, MT. I'm not addressing everyone in Libby and the ones I am will soon recognize themselves.

I work for an emergency response and remediation company known as Environmental Restoration, also known as E.R. E.R. is based in St. Louis, Mo., and handles environmental spills, SNAFUS and situations similar to Libby's all over the nation.

I know that we can be a pain to deal with as we do our work, especially in the city, with our trucks, equipment and what not in the narrow streets and alleys. What I'd like to ask of you, as we work to clean up your valley, is a little patience. It's not easy work and we appreciate all the help, cooperation and understanding we can get from you.

I also know that being temporarily put out of your home is an inconvenience that no one wants. But look at it this way. If your doctor told you that you had a small growth inside you that may or may not be a problem, but with a simple operation, it would certainly be no problem. What would you do? Of course, you would.

I know from talking to many of you that you are confusing E.R. with the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA is a government agency that mandates this work. E.R. is one of several companies that bid on the work. It would be similar to a local timber contractor bidding on a timber sale let by the U.S. Forest Service (if such a thing were still in existence).

OK, now you're saying, wait a second, E.R. isn't a local contractor. Well, yes and no. As I said early in this letter, E.R. is based in St. Louis. They also have offices in Chicago, Houston, Omaha, Denver and Libby.

I know many of you think that the work we're doing here is unnecessary. Well as the old saying goes, everyone has an opinion and you're certainly entitled to your own, or something like that. Fact is, the work is going to be done, so why not by local people? That's right folks, I said local people. You see, when ER came here five years ago they decided to try to hire as many locals as possible and were surprised and delighted at the talent pool they found here in Libby. As it stands now, the Libby office employs about 65 people. Around 97 percent of this crew are locals. OK, let's take a look at that: That's about 63 families that are able to pay their rent, buy groceries, pay their utilities, taxes, and maybe even afford a little recreation. All of which benefits the community.

For that I say, thank you E.R., for putting the people of this community first. I know I speak for many when I say we are truly grateful. E.R. also kept its Libby crew in mind when it was recruited to go in and help with the hurricane disaster cleanup efforts last winter by taking many of us to Louisiana during our off season.

You may not recognize us when we're out there in our white suits and other protective gear, but it's us. Your friends, neighbors and relatives out there working to "Git 'er done." So please, help us out and give us a break. The valley we're working to clean up for you and future generations is not only yours, it's also ours.

Bob Creighton