New Threat in Libby, MT: Asbestos Water Contamination

Toxicity tests conducted on the water surrounding Libby, Montana indicate that high levels of asbestos are present. This will need to be added to the Libby cleanup effort, which has already cost $370 million over the past decade, according to the Great Falls Tribune. Until 1990, W.R. Grace & Co. mined asbestos-laden vermiculate in the Libby area to make residential insulation, and now Libby is one of the largest superfund sites in American history. Roughly 1,750 people have fallen ill and more than 300 have died as a result of asbestos dust that was released from the W.R. Grace mine.

Until recently, focus was placed on the high concentrations of asbestos in the air near Libby over asbestos contamination of the area’s water. While the health effects of ingesting asbestos are not as well studied as the effects from inhaling it, it can be agreed upon that asbestos levels in the Libby water are far too high to be safe. On May 17, a test of the waters in Rainy Creek showed a count of 55 million asbestos fibers per liter. The limit on asbestos fibers in drinking water is a mere 7 million fibers per liter.

The Tribune states that Montana officials called the results of testing on Libby’s water “troubling”. The EPA has been asked to reduce the contact of asbestos-contaminated sediment with the water with more vegetation, berms along the creek, and other methods.

“EMSL Analytical, Inc. has three decades of experience testing for asbestos, and our expertise has made us the nation’s leading asbestos testing laboratory with over 30 locations nationwide,” states Ed Cahill, EMSL’s National Director of Asbestos. “We use the most advanced methods available to analyze asbestos in various types of samples, including water, soil, rock, air, settled dust, building materials, and vermiculite.”

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