EPA Declares Libby Superfund Public Health Emergency

The asbestos contamination there has been known for years, and a high-profile criminal trial ended in acquittals of W.R. Grace and three individuals and a dismissal of charges on Monday against a fourth defendant.

EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson today announced her agency has determined a public health emergency exists at the Libby asbestos site in northwest Montana, marking the first time EPA has made a determination under the Superfund law (the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act) that conditions at a site constitute such an emergency. Libby was extensively contaminated with asbestos by milling operations over a long period of time, with about 2,000 cases of asbestos-related disease cases documented in the towns of Libby and Troy. Jackson announced the decision at a press conference with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and both U.S. senators from Montana, Max Baucus and Jon Tester.

Last month, W.R. Grace and three individual defendants were acquitted of criminal charges under the Clean Air Act alleging they conspired to conceal the health dangers posed by the contamination. A fourth individual defendant, the company's in-house counsel, was scheduled to stand trial in September, but prosecutors filed a notice Monday that charges against him had been dismissed.

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