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DEQ to talk air quality in Libby

by Brad Fuqua & Western News
| December 3, 2008 11:00 PM

The Lincoln County commissioners on Wednesday morning discussed possible formats for a Dec. 18 public meeting on the controversial issue of air quality.

An air-pollution alert that lasted from the afternoon of Oct. 29 until mid-morning on Oct. 31 in the Libby area led to confusion and anger among residents. On Nov. 3, locals expressed their frustration during organized rallies at the county courthouse and the annex building.

Kathi Hooper of the county environmental health department looked for feedback from commissioners John Konzen and Marianne Roose on how the Dec. 18 meeting should be conducted.

“We want to try to keep the presentations fairly short and have time for questions,” said Hooper, adding that the participants may be introduced as a panel.

Up to four representatives from the Department of Environmental Quality are expected to appear. Hooper said two potential participants include Bob Habeck from DEQ’s Air Resources Management Bureau, and Eric Merchant, an air quality planning and policy adviser.

Dr. Brad Black, county health officer, and Dr. Tony Ward from the University of Montana, will also take part in the meeting, which begins at 7 p.m., on Dec. 18 at Little Theatre.

Ward is an independent research scientist who has done air studies in Libby dating back to the 1990s. Hooper said a lot of the county’s compliance plans were built on his research.

Commissioner Tony Berget missed the meeting because of his participation in a training program in Helena. The program is desgined to help new county commissioners transition into their new positions.

In other board action:

• Commissioners appointed Hooper to serve in the role of environmental health/planning director. The county has struggled to fill its vacant county planner position.

• Commissioners appointed Gayle McCarron to the Fortine Cemetery board. The move increases the board from three to four members. Roose received information that the cemetery was in poor condition and McCarron stepped forward to volunteer.

• Commissioners discussed a Troy walking/biking path project with Troy mayor James Hammond and civil engineer Ryan Jones.