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EPA: Activity-based sampling at Libby schools coming

by Brad FuquaWestern News
| April 14, 2009 12:00 AM

The Environmental Protection Agency’s Libby Superfund Cleanup team announced last week that activity-based sampling will be completed at local schools this summer.

Stationary air sampling was done at the high school, middle school and Asa Wood over the winter. The EPA’s Mike Cirian said those results have not yet been validated.

“We’ll take that (validated results) and look at doing activity-based sampling at the schools this summer,” Cirian said. “It’s all real preliminary but it could include soccer, the walking path, the swing sets, playing basketball – those kinds of things. We’ll go through and determine which ones will be best for activity-based sampling.”

Outdoor non-activity sampling of soil around the walking path was completed last year at Asa Wood.

County commissioner Tony Berget asked if any further indoor sampling was planned at the schools and Cirian said “probably not.”

“We’ve done samples at the schools at different times and it’s mostly non-detect or extremely low, zero-zero-zero stuff,” he said. “We’ll have that validated and put it all together in a report to see what it all means.”

On another issue, county commissioner John Konzen aggressively questioned the Superfund team about delays regarding the cleanup at Troy. Catherine Lecours reported via conference call at last Wednesday’s county commissioners meeting that funding had been delayed.

Lecours indicated that the process had taken longer for reasons that could be likened to red-tape issues.

“It’s nobody’s fault … we’re working as hard as we can,” Lecours said. “It’s just the nature of the beast.”

Konzen replied that the delay was unacceptable and questioned why it wouldn’t continue on this summer “without any hiccups.”

Lecours offered a few reasons, including funding that came in late last year and some team members bringing in different and new ideas that could lead to a better way of doing things. Lecours said the delay will only be for a few weeks.

“Mike still has on his plate quite a few properties in Troy that require immediate attention,” Lecours said. “We’re not missing those; those are still getting done and there are some pretty big parcels. It’s just a matter of us getting into a few more homes this year.”

Lecours lauded the response from Troy residents when it comes to the cleanup.

“We’ve had over an 80 percent positive response rate,” she said. “That’s huge for something as evasive as this.”

The Montana Department of Environmental Quality is the lead agency on Troy with the option of having the EPA handle cleanups. Ambient air sampling is on the horizon for Troy.

In other cleanup news:

• Cirian said 43 to 45 properties are included on the first cleanup order this summer with construction removal scheduled to begin May 4. Later this month, the second task order will be determined with approximately 45 more properties.

• Officials are waiting on results of a flood plain issue (100 vs. 500 years) in the industrial district area – what the EPA identifies as Operable Unit 5.

• A cleanup at the golf course in Libby will not begin at least until Aug. 17. Cirian said the Cabinet View Country Club board may even want to wait longer than that before the process begins. “They’re trying to get in as much golf season as possible,” Cirian said. Currently, the paperwork is moving forward with an upcoming action memo and the signature process.

• Remaining creeks will go through the cleanup process most likely in August or September, Cirian said. Coordinating the project with wildlife, state and conservancy agencies will be done to determine the exact timeframe.