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EPA Aware of Montana Asbestos Contamination

July 26, 2011 – Several weeks ago, when U.S. Senator Max Baucus read that asbestos-contaminated wood chips and bark from the defunct Stimson Lumber mill had been widely used as landscaping material, he asked for an investigation. The investigation has revealed that the Environmental Protection Agency knew the potentially contaminated materials were being sold in Libby, Montana, for three years before they intervened to stop the practice in March, 2011. It has been revealed that the EPA found asbestos in samples it took from the piles in October, 2007, but never determined the full extent of the contamination at that time.  The federal agency is now performing additional tests to measure the health risk, with results expected this summer. Many of the trees processed at the Stimson mill came from the forests around the W.R. Grace vermiculite mine in Libby. Previous testing revealed that trees up to eight miles from the mine were heavily contaminated with asbestos. Also, the asbestos in the wood chip piles could have come from dust from the Libby mine because residents say large quantities of dust regularly settled over the town when the mine was still in operation. Asbestos from the Libby mine has killed an estimated 400 people.

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