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Reducing the risk of asbestos

| April 27, 2012 6:45 AM

The Libby City-County Health Committee, looking toward protecting the public after the Environmental Protection Agency finishes its duties in Libby, has taken steps to examine ways to reduce risks from Libby Amphibole Asbestos.

The Local Board of Health for Lincoln County, officially known as the City-County Board of Health for Lincoln County, announced plans last week that it seeks an evaluation of how it can help the local citizens reduce their risk of exposure to Libby Amphibole Asbestos in the Libby and Troy areas.

The committee is seeking answers now and after EPA has finished its cleanup of the community.  

Members of the committee include Libby City Councilwoman Peggy Williams, Mayor Doug Roll, Environmental Health Director Kathi Hooper, Attorney Allen Payne, County Commissioners Marianne Roose, Tony Berget, Ron Downey, Health Department Nurse Mickey Carvey and Dr. Brad Black.

   Membership and representation on the Board is also available to the City of Troy and Town of Eureka.  As a local government agency, the Board of Health will remain responsive to the local citizens.  While the Board has been an active advisor and commenter on EPA’s cleanup, this new effort by the Board represents the first real opportunity for the local citizens to have a direct and lasting impact on how Libby amphibole asbestos in our community is managed, Payne said.

  “As most Lincoln County residents already know, Libby amphibole asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral contained in the vermiculite mined by W.R. Grace in the Libby area,” said Payne, the Committee spokesman.

   “Since 1999, the EPA has been removing vermiculite and Libby amphibole contaminated materials from residential, commercial and public properties throughout South Lincoln County.  EPA’s cleanup effort is ongoing and may continue for a number of years, but eventually, the EPA will complete its cleanup work.”

   During the next year, the Board of Health will evaluate whether there are reasonable methods it can take to help reduce the public’s risk of exposure to Libby amphibole asbestos during EPA’s cleanup and what role it and the local citizens it represents might play in reducing Libby amphibole exposure risk once EPA has completed its cleanup.  These measures might include education/information of what risks of exposure are in fact present in the community, providing resources to citizens to reduce those risks, and regulation aimed at reducing the amount of Libby amphibole released into the community.

   This initiative by the Board of Health is funded in total by a grant from EPA, but a condition of acceptance of the grant was that the Board would exercise its independent judgment as to what measures, if any, it would implement to protect the public’s health.  

   The Board will work with interested community members to evaluate community and Board proposed methods to protect human health and reduce exposure to Libby amphibole asbestos.  

   The Board of Health’s primary goal for the project is to develop a process that encourages input, participation and discussion from local community members.  Before any final action by the Board will be taken, extensive public comment will be sought and evaluated.  To help facilitate the public outreach process, the County, on behalf of the Board, is hiring a Program Coordinator and has retained Trihydro Corp., an environmental and engineering consulting firm in Helena to review the existing local health regulations and then propose educational programs, resources to be made available to the public and regulations to reduce releases of and exposure to Libby amphibole asbestos. 

These recommendations will be submitted to the public for comment and presented to the Board for review.

The Board of Health and Trihydro representatives will meet with the Lincoln County officials in early April to kick off the project.  

After April’s meeting, the project team will immediately begin the process of evaluating methods to reduce exposure.

For more information, or to sign up to receive project updates and meeting announcements, please contact Hooper at 283-2442.