Libby asbestos management enters new phase - KPAX.com | Continuous News | Missoula & Western Montana

Libby asbestos management enters new phase

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HELENA - After years of cleanup operations, the focus is shifting on Libby’s asbestos cleanup problem.

Now, a new effort is starting on how the community can deal with the contamination for years to come, rather than just removing obvious contamination.

That contamination comes from decades of vermiculite mining at the W.R. Grace Mine, which closed almost 30 years ago. After years of research, and a big legal fight, the company finally agreed to pay hundreds of millions of dollars to help the Environmental Protection Agency with cleanup costs.

That asbestos removal at local homes and businesses has been underway for years, removing tons of contaminated dirt and debris.

Now, a new group is swinging into action. The Libby Asbestos Superfund Advisory Committee met for the first time in Helena Thursday after being authorized by the Legislature last spring. The panel’s assignment is to manage the ongoing efforts to help the community deal with future contamination discoveries, as EPA winds down work under the Superfund program.

EPA hopes to complete cleanup on the remaining 200 properties on its list by the end of this year or early 2018.

While the cleanup has focused on contamination in Libby proper, there’s still no firm plan of what to do at the mine site outside town.

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