Kootenai Business Park Wants Out of Libby Asbestos Superfund Listing

Illustration of potential asbestos exposure in a building

The goal of the Lincoln County Port Authority is to get the Kootenai Business Park delisted from the Libby Asbestos Superfund Site. Two big steps have been made toward accomplishing it.

Port Authority has been talking with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), creating momentum. Now, Port Authority has been labeled as “operational and functioning.”

“We now have momentum,” said Port Authority’s Executive Director Tina Oliphant. “The final remedial control plan was completed in September.”

According to Oliphant, this is part of a strategic objective to help with the business park’s development. “It removes a stigma to outside investment and the delisting would help establish a confidence in Port Authority’s ability to manage further development.”

According to Lincoln County’s Asbestos Resource Manager Nick Raines, “The EPA designated some $11.8 million of the $250 million settlement from W.R. Grace to go toward long term operations and maintenance.”

W.R. Grace & Company was the cause of Libby becoming an asbestos superfund site. The company was well known for illegally dumping industrial waste containing large amounts of asbestos at several of their facilities in Libby.

So much so that 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, and a higher-than-average incidence of mesothelioma has been observed in Libby and surrounding areas.

Then a public health emergency was declared in 2009 due to the increasingly large amount of asbestos-related health problems occurring in Libby. This was a historical moment because a public health emergency was never before related to a Superfund site.

“If that money [$11.8 million] runs out, some $600,000 in state funding could be available starting in 2018 through SB20, which reallocated the metal mines license tax, but that’s a big if,” said Raines. “We want to make sure the burden is not put on the property owners.”

“We are a couple of years ahead of everyone else,” said Brett McCully, Director of Operations at the Kootenai Business Park. The seven other units in the Superfund site might be in need of financial assistance when asbestos problems arise post-EPA move out.

Kootenai Business Park would be the first partial site delisted from the Libby Asbestos Superfund Site.