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Asbestos found on creek rocks

| August 15, 2007 12:00 AM

By KYLE McCLELLAN The Western News

At least two vermiculite-contaminated rocks have been found near Callahan Creek in Troy, prompting officials to soon conduct a more thorough investigation into the extent of the potential asbestos contamination.

Environmental science specialist Catherine LeCours and EPA On-Site Coordinator Paul Peronard reported the updates Wednesday at the county commissioners meeting.

"It wasn't as much. It wasn't as big. But it's there," Peronard said, comparing the find to the contamination found on Flower Creek in Libby.

The rocks were found along the edges of the creek a couple hundred yards off U.S. Highway 2.

"We're going to walk the section of the creek very thoroughly and try to figure out how much," Peronard told commissioners Rita Windom and John Konzen.

"If we're lucky, it's two rocks and we'll remove them and call it done."

If left alone in the creeks, contaminated rocks won't pose much of a hazard. But without a municipal swimming pool, local youths are known to spend time in the creek lounging and building dams, which could create a "pretty significant" risk, Peronard said.

"That's why we prioritize Flower Creek. Because kids are in it."

Further discussion highlighted the issue of prioritizing remediation projects in public and private spaces within Troy and Libby.

How should the EPA and its contractors decide when to clean homes in Libby, which have been on a waiting list, as compared to homes in Troy, which may have greater contamination?

And how does Cabinet View Country Club fit into the timeline? Vermiculite has been identified on the original nine holes, according to officials.

Beginning a project there carries economic incentives for the town but also would appear to neglect the safety of those still living with the contamination in their homes.

In terms of progress this year, Peronard said the remediation crews have worked on larger projects and excavated more dirt than previous projects, which brings down the total number of properties.

The average size of a remediated property this year is three acres, Peronard said.

"They're bigger properties and we're being more aggressive with cleanups," he said.

Temperatures this summer have made those large projects tough.

Peronard said one attic in which crews were working reached 160 degrees.

"If I could market this, it would be the attic-cleanup weightloss program," he said.

"It's fairly brutal work. It's something we're trying to get around and not burn out our boys."