For the first time, the Environmental Protection Agency has declared a public health emergency. This is due to the high number of asbestos-related illnesses suffered by the population of Libby, Montana. The town will receive more than $130 million for cleanup and medical needs.
It is estimated that 200 people have died and at least a thousand more have been sickened with illnesses, including mesothelioma. The culprit is the vermiculite mine that was operated from the 1920s to 1990. Vermiculite by itself is not necessarily harmful, however, the vermiculite from the Libby mine was contaminated with asbestos.
Vermiculite is used in a variety of materials, and the vermiculite the Libby mine was mostly used in Zonolite, an insulation used in millions of homes across the country. Virtually all the vermiculite that was mined was contaminated with asbestos. This means that the small town was exposed for decades as the mining was in progress. However, while those who mined the vermiculite were definitely exposed, entire families may have also been sickened. Mine waste, called trailings, were used as mulch in gardens, as fill for driveways, and even in playgrounds and the local high school track.
The mine operator, W.C. Grace, closed the mine in 1999, but cleanup efforts have stalled time and again over the last decade. In 2008, three executives of the mining company were acquitted of criminal charges related to the town’s exposure. However, they agreed in 2008 to pay the EPA $250 million for cleanup costs.
If you or a loved one has developed an asbestos-related illness, please contact the experienced mesothelioma lawyers at Brown | Kiely, LLP for an initial consultation.