"KALISPELL - The potential for public exposure to dangerous levels of asbestos in the contaminated mining town of Libby remains a concern to federal health officials, according to preliminary results of a risk-assessment study announced Tuesday, more than a decade after cleanup operations began.
Officials with the federal Environmental Protection Agency visited the town to present preliminary results of the toxicology study, which began five years ago at the behest of the Office of Inspector General, who at the time identified problems with the cleanup operation.
EPA Regional Administrator Jim Martin said the toxicity study was released early to keep Libby residents informed. The agency's work in Libby has been met with criticism from Montana officials, including U.S. Sen. Max Baucus, who censured the EPA for making premature declarations that the community was safe when risks remained.
More than 400 Libby residents have died of asbestos-related disease in the past several decades and thousands more are sickened from breathing the asbestos fibers, which for decades were released into the air by a vermiculite mine operated by W.R. Grace and Co."