EPA Orders Clean Up in Montana

Friday, May 26th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

LIBBY, Mont. (AP) — The Environmental Protection Agency has ordered W.R. Grace & Co. to clean up a vermiculite processing site contaminated with high levels of asbestos.

The agency also plans to begin cleanup of a second processing site connected to the now-closed vermiculite mine operated by Grace until 1990.

An EPA official said Friday the cost of the projects could be more than $5 million and Grace is expected to foot the bill.

Vermiculite is a mica-like material most commonly used in horticulture for its ability to absorb water. It is also used as insulation and as an asbestos substitute in brake shoes and firewall liners in vehicles.

Recent EPA tests detected dangerous concentrations of asbestos in soil, air and dust at the vermiculite processing sites.

Grace operated the Libby vermiculite mine north of town for 27 years. News reports last fall revealed almost 200 former miners and family members have died of asbestos-related diseases, and 372 residents had been diagnosed with such illnesses.

The cleanup of one of the sites formerly owned by Grace will involve tearing down five buildings and removing up to 18 inches of topsoil from 10 acres. Cleanup of the other, 26-acre site will require the razing of eight buildings.