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Monday, July 11, 2011

Better Control Over Asbestos Contaminated Sites Required

Senator Max Baucus (MT)


The recent discovery of the spread of asbestos contamination in Libby MT, which had been declared a Public Health Emergency, is shocking. Asbestos, a known carcinogen, associated with mesothelioma, is reportedly still lingering throughout the community. 

Montana's senior U.S. Senator Max Baucus vowed to find answers regarding reports today of asbestos-contaminated bark and wood chips being sold in Libby, MT and beyond. 

"We've made tremendous strides in the effort to help Libby heal with health care and environmental cleanup. But trust is essential to Libby's ability to heal psychologically and economically. Now it appears EPA's actions may have put that trust in jeopardy, so you can bet I'll be holding EPA's feet to the fire to find out exactly what they knew, when they knew it, and whether action is needed to ensure the safety of folks in Libby and across the country who were exposed to this bark," Baucus said. "The people of Libby have already been poisoned in the name of greed and I won't allow them to be victimized again because of negligence. We need to work together to make sure safety information is complete and transparent so the community can move forward and create jobs with faith in the agencies and processes that are supposed to protect them."

Since news reports first linked widespread deaths and illness to exposure to deadly asbestos fibers at the defunct W.R Grace and Co. mine, Baucus has visited Libby more than 20 times, secured millions for healthcare and cleanup, brought numerous White House cabinet secretaries to the town, helped save the CARD clinic, and has dogged the EPA to keep cleanup efforts moving forward. 

As far back as 1999, Baucus wrote a letter to then Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala requesting immediate medical help and assistance to the area. He further lambasted the EPA's decision to not declare a Public Health Emergency, calling it an "outrage." 

In 2008, Baucus released a report detailing a 2002 attempt by the EPA to declare a Public Health Emergency in Libby that was thwarted by the previous Administration's Office of Management and Budget. And on June 17, 2009, due in large part to Baucus' efforts, the EPA declared its first ever public health emergency in Libby, Montana. 

Earlier this year Baucus was announced as the 2011 Tribute of Hope Award recipient by the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO) for his tireless efforts fighting on behalf of residents of Libby, Lincoln County and Asbestos victims everywhere. In March, the Senate unanimously passed Baucus' resolution to designate the first week of April 2011 as "Asbestos Awareness Week," and call attention to Libby and other victims of asbestos-related disease.

The continued spread of this contamination is yet another reason why the US must finally ban asbestos entirely.