On Marco Island: Independent Reporting, Documenting Government Abuses, Exposing the Syndicate, Historical Records of Crimes Against the Environment

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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

EPA Delays, Locals Lie, Tragedy Occurs

Read this heartbreaking and appalling story of a town decimated by asbestos – and not because of the lethal particle itself, but because of delays by the agency allegedly responsible for protecting our health and because of local officials lying and obfuscating until it was too late.

Here are some of the article's highlights:

The EPA this month took its first step toward wrapping up its efforts over the next two to three years, rekindling anxieties.

"Everybody wants Libby to go away and it's not going away," said Dr. Brad Black, director of Libby's Center for Asbestos Related Diseases. His stethoscope pressed against the back of a 36-year-old patient who never worked in the mine, Black said the man's exposure likely came from playing in a friend's contaminated house as a child.

Crushing the rock to remove "nuisance" materials set billions of asbestos fibers loose in clouds of dust that drifted the six miles down to Libby, leaving a powdery trace as light as snow.

Little was done — despite state-issued orders for the mine to cut down on dust levels and to upgrade filtering equipment. Federal regulators stayed on the sidelines, and the mine remained open until 1990.

Nine years later, EPA finally joined the fray — after the Seattle Post-Intelligencer newspaper detailed the toll of dead and dying that had become too large to ignore.

Two EPA Inspector General reports, in 2002 and 2006, faulted agency administrators for delays in the baseline scientific risk assessment that typically guides Superfund cleanups. The risk assessment remains incomplete.

Moving forward without the assessment leaves the EPA no way to know when Libby is safe, said Richard Troast, a former EPA toxicologist based in Washington, D.C. who worked on the Libby cleanup for five years. He said staff scientists had been pushing for the assessment since 2001 but their efforts were hampered by senior agency officials.

City Councilman D.C. Orr, who worked as a contractor at the mine for almost two decades, recalls joining with others at the mine to eat raw vermiculite as a way to mock the health concerns raised by activists like Benefield. [sounds like marco island's village idiot, doesn't it?]

For the entire lengthy sordid tale, CLICK HERE.

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