EPA Issues Last Call to Request Libby Superfund Assistance for Residential Inspections

Illustration of potential asbestos exposure in a building

As part of the Superfund cleanup, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has given its final call for residents to request asbestos inspections in Libby and Troy. Property owners have until March 31 to contact the agency.

These inspections are part of the overall Libby Superfund plan, which the EPA has been conducting for over 35 years. Libby is one of the largest EPA cleanup efforts due to the asbestos-contaminated vermiculite mine. In addition to the inspections, the agency also offers financial assistance in those instances where an inspection uncovers the need to clean up asbestos from the property.

If owners fail to contact the EPA before March 31, the cost of an inspection and cleanup may become their responsibility. Those who miss the deadline will have a notice of environmental conditions filed at the Lincoln County Clerk and Recorder’s office. This ensures future owners, lenders, and renters are aware of the property’s status.

Over 7,500 properties have been inspected since the early 2000s. Around 2,440 have needed cleanup actions taken. About 600 properties have yet to be inspected. The EPA believes somewhere around 10% of them would require cleanup.

Cleanup is done in such a way as to minimize disturbance and return to the pre-abatement conditions. These types of cleanup could mean outdoor, including the removal of asbestos-containing soil and backfilling the area with clean soil.

Indoor cleanup would be removing insulation from accessible areas within structures and replacing it with new insulation. The asbestos materials must then be taken to a secure landfill.

Air asbestos concentrations have lowered by about 100,000 times since the Superfund cleanup started. The site was declared a public health emergency in 2009 due to the increasingly large amount of asbestos-related health problems occurring in Libby, a city in Montana. This was a historical moment because a public health emergency was never before related to a Superfund site.

W.R. Grace Company was the cause of Libby becoming an asbestos superfund site. The company operated a vermiculite mine for decades before finally closing for good.

The asbestos-contaminated products made by W.R. Grace included surfacing materials, window glazing compounds, waterproofing compounds, cements, adhesives, and plaster. It was well known the company illegally dumped industrial waste containing large amounts of asbestos at several of their facilities in Libby.

The EPA included Libby as part of the Superfund Cleanup Plan of 1980 to address the immediate need for cleaning and securing the most dangerously polluted areas in the U.S. (Asbestos exposure can cause mesothelioma cancer.)