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Re-Use of Libby Elementary School Stalled Due to Additional Asbestos Contamination

Pat Guth contributes news and insightful content for the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance.

Patricia Guth

April 05, 2012

Libby, Montana - In a town already paralyzed by the decades-long presence of the W.R. Grace and Company asbestos-tainted vermiculite mine, Libby, MT officials noted another blow in their effort to move on when they recently discovered more asbestos in the building that once housed the now-closed Asa Wood Elementary School – a building they hope to re-purpose sometime in the near future.

According to a story on KPAX-TV, plans to go forward with the building’s re-use have been put on hold for the time being and the EPA along with the Libby School District and county commissioners are trying to figure out how to best handle the situation. Some of the EPA’s plans have local officials worrying about the health and safety of the town where more than 400 have already died of asbestos-caused mesothelioma and another 1,800 or so are sick due to asbestos exposure.

"The EPA is talking about, we're just going to flush some walls, and then they can take those down and take them to the dump and based on the letter that I saw, that I got, I don't think so, we're not interested in taking something that may be contaminated and putting it into our regular dumpsite," said commissioner Tony Berget. He noted that there was additional discussion about removing the asbestos and disposing of it at the original mine site.

In general, however, the county commissioners, while willing to pitch in and help, think the EPA isn’t doing enough to assist with this particular situation. Libby residents have had plenty of past experience with the slow movement of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, an organization many believe have taken way too long to clean up the W.R. Grace and Company Superfund Site, the worst environmental disaster in the history of the U.S.

"I would like to see the EPA step up to the plate a little more on this. I was a little disappointed in the letter I saw," Berget said, emphatically.

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