Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Libby, part 1

Well, a bit delayed with posting ... From February... W.R. Grace was back in the news with a new lawsuit. This is the owner of the vermiculite mine in Libby, Montana. The stupendous point of this is that the defendants in the suit are the Grace executives, not the company. This is the first time the EPA has tried this. They - unlike OSHA - are allowed to directly bring suit against individuals. Actually, I’m not sure OSHA is even allowed to sue anyone, just implement fines. I’m sure the rest of the legal community is waiting with baited breath (assuming we don’t have asbestosis, of course). The company did ban smoking at the mine in 1978 — smoking compounds the dangers of asbestos, doctors say — and also issued respirator masks to workers. But showers that the miners could have used at the end of their shifts before heading home were ruled out, because they might have overly worried people. In the largest judgment after trial (in 2003) in the history of the federal Superfund law, the Justice Department and the Environmental Protection Agency announced that the District Court of Montana has ordered W.R. Grace & Co. to pay over $54.5 million to reimburse the federal government for the costs of investigation and cleanup of asbestos contamination in Libby, Montana. There is asbestos all over the entire town. Usually asbestos abatement brings an image of workers in Tyvek suits & respirators working behind plastic sheeting. This abatement is somehow supposed to be the entire city of Libby.

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