WASHINGTON – U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson today announced the agency has determined that a public health emergency exists at the Libby asbestos site in northwest Montana. Over the past years, hundreds of asbestos-related disease cases have been documented in this small community, which covers the towns of Libby and Troy. The announcement was made today at a joint press conference with Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and U.S. Sens. Max Baucus and Jon Tester.
This is the first time EPA has made a determination under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) that conditions at a site constitute a public health emergency. This determination recognizes the serious impact to the public health from the contamination at Libby and underscores the need for further action and health care for area residents who have been or may be exposed to asbestos. Investigations performed by the Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry have found the incidence of occurrence of asbestosis, a lung condition, in the Libby area staggeringly higher than the national average for the period from 1979-1998. EPA is working closely with the Department of Health and Human Services, which is making available a short-term grant to provide needed asbestos-related medical care to Libby and Troy residents.
And, in a related matter as reported by CNN, a jury Friday (May 8, 2009) acquitted W.R. Grace & Company and three of its former executives of having knowingly exposed mine workers and residents of Libby, Montana, to asbestos.
Source: EPA; CNN