Wednesday, March 12, 2008

W.R. Grace Foots the Bill for Montana Asbestos Clean-up

Susan Gallagher of the Associated Press reports that W.R. Grace & Co. agreed to pay $250 million toward asbestos clean-up in Libby, Montana. The full story is available online; here’s a brief excerpt:

More than 215 asbestos-related deaths in Libby have been confirmed and a clinic in the community, the Center for Asbestos-Related Disease, is following about 2,000 asbestos cases, said Jon Heberling, a Kalispell lawyer with clients pursuing legal action for asbestos exposure.

"Any judgment against Grace is a good one," Gayla Benefield of Libby said Tuesday. "This is a step forward; $250 million is nothing to sneeze at considering that in 1999 they (Grace) were saying, 'We didn't cause the problem. We didn't do anything.'"

Benefield has said she suffers health effects from asbestos exposure and lost both parents to asbestos-related diseases.

The EPA's Peronard said the remaining cleanup work in Libby is likely to take three to five years.

In 2001, the government filed a lawsuit to recover costs and in 2003, the EPA won a $54 million judgment for cleanup costs incurred through Dec. 31, 2001. However, the money went unpaid during Grace's bankruptcy protection. The settlement announced Tuesday includes that 2003 judgment, the Department of Justice said.

Besides removing soil around homes and businesses, cleanup has included removing building insulation and debris containing asbestos. Peronard said cleanups have been completed at 954 properties, and 450 remain on a cleanup list. Still to be decided: what to do about some 700 properties that are in the Libby area and are contaminated but do not meet removal criteria.


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