And now for the real story . . .
Bill Corcoran, vice president of marketing for W.R. Grace, said during a conversation with the county commissioners on Wednesday that an actuarial study shows Libby health care costs for asbestos victims would continue to be about $1 million to $2 million for the next 10 years.
Wrong, Bill. Wrong!
An actuarial study completed by Jim Buck of Insurance Service Organization of New Jersey said that $32 million was needed over the next 5 years for medical care of Libby victims. Buck said that in a Dec. 10, 2004 teleconference between Gov. Judy Martz's office, and Libby health representatives and public officials. We were sitting in the St. John's Lutheran Hospital conference room near the front door.
In addition, Buck said that as many as 60 new people could be expected to be diagnosed with asbestos-related disease during this same time period.
Buck said the 32.2 million was the best-case projection and that the worse case projection was $90 million. Under that scenario — the worse cast — everyone screened for a lung abnormality by the Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry — more than 7,000 people — would have to be diagnosed as sick with ARD.
For those of you who keep track of such things, this all appeared in The Western News on Dec. 15, 2004. I went back and looked it up Wednesday night after hearing what Corcoran said.
I was sure that Jeannie Gentry and the county commissioners would be sputtering following Corcoran's comments. They were at the tele-conference Wednesday and they were seated around the conference table in December 2004.
W.R. Grace could go a long way toward helping themselves in terms of public relations and possibly bankruptcy by doing a couple of things: First they need to plea bargain the criminal charges pending against them and not go to trial. Delaying tactics that are now evident won't forestall or change the conclusion of that criminal case. I'm sure a lot of local people have varying opinions about what Grace owes this community but I'd settle for an apology to the people living here today, those who moved away and those who are dead. And then I'd want a medical trust fund set up that would be managed locally for the health care of asbestos victims from the company's former mine and milling operations in this area.
Superfund law already has the company on the hook for recovering cleanup costs.
It would save Grace and the federal government considerable dollars spent on a lengthy criminal trial and to people elsewhere, W.R. Grace might come off looking better than they will be considered in these parts. If they care.
Which might be the problem. They don't care about us or what anybody thinks. Not good public relations, Bill. You're just digging yourself a deeper hole.
Of course, what should I expect from a company that believes they are providing us with a good medical plan for the asbestos victims. The plan proposed five years ago, maybe. The plan today, no way. And based on Corcoran's comments about a couple of million being able to solve the problem, it's obvious the plan for the future is going to be a tad bit inadequate. — Roger Morris