Sunday, June 13, 2021

ARP wraps up two abatement projects

The Western News | June 1, 2021 7:00 AM

Contractors have completed two emergency abatement projects launched after workers discovered contaminated mine tailings buried in a pair of Libby properties.

Virginia Kocieda, director of the Lincoln County Asbestos Resource Program, said remediators had replaced the tainted dirt from two East Fifth Street lots with clean soil. Speaking during a May 19 county commissioner meeting, Kocieda said Environmental Restoration, the abatement company ARP partnered with on the project, was waiting on an invoice for the work.

While the invoice will go to the state Department of Environmental Quality, Kocieda said reimbursement for the projects would come from the EPA since federal officials had missed the tailings while inspecting the property.

Kocieda brought the emergency abatement projects to the commissioners’ attention in mid-April after workers with Ziply Fiber uncovered the tailings while digging a trench. Before starting the work, Ziply Fiber employees went through the proper procedures by filing a utility locate of underground facilities. ARP officials learned of the request and approved the digging projects after verifying that EPA investigations had not found vermiculite on the properties.

But federal officials had relied on early testing procedures, which Kocieda said were not as effective as later detection methods.

After ARP investigated the site, program officials received authorization from DEQ to speed up the abatement process by selecting a contractor without putting the projects out for bids. While updating the commissioners on the abatements in May, Kocieda said clean up efforts were delayed when DEQ later disagreed with ARP’s characterization of the projects as emergency abatements.

On top of coordinating the emergency projects, ARP was monitoring four abatements at various stages of completion in Troy and Libby.

At one property in Troy, testing had found an over 25 percent trace of asbestos in the soil. The owner said they had purchased the lot on Bighorn Way without knowing the former owner had refused to let EPA officials inspect the property. Kocieda said the owner seemed genuine and that funds from DEQ would reimburse the abatement.

ARP received a second scope of work for ongoing abatement at a property on Mineral Avenue. Kocieda said the ARP would be putting the project out to bid since the cost came in at more than $25,000.

In April, ARP received 21 hotline calls from Libby and seven from Troy. The program saw 124 utility locate tickets, 88 from Libby and 36 from Troy. All told, ARP performed 32 site visits.

Kocieda said ARP had spent $235,740.87 since last July when DEQ took over maintenance and operation work of Troy and Libby properties. A memorandum of agreement with the state agency provided ARP with $600,000 in funding from July 1, 2020, to May 31, 2022. This means the program has a budget of $364,259.13 through the department for the coming year.