January 23, 2019

Study of Montana Mining Town Says Cleanup Working

A long-delayed risk study released Monday for a Montana mining town where hundreds of people have died from asbestos poisoning concludes cleanup practices now in place are reducing risks to residents.

However, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency acknowledged there is no way to remove all the asbestos from the area and inhaling even a minute amount could cause lung problems.

The 328-page draft document will be used to guide the remaining cleanup of asbestos dust stemming from a W.R. Grace & Co. vermiculite mine outside Libby, a town of 2,600 people about 50 miles south of the Canada border.

The scenic mountain community has become synonymous with asbestos dangers. Health workers estimate 400 people have been killed and more than 2,000 sickened in Libby and the surrounding area.

Dozens of sites across the U.S. received or processed vermiculite from Libby’s mine, which was used as insulation in millions of homes.

The EPA study used lung scarring ? not just cancer deaths ? to help determine how much danger asbestos poses to people who remain in Libby, where the contaminated vermiculite had been widely used in homes, as construction fill, and for other purposes before its dangers were known.

The EPA already has conducted cleanup work on more than 2,000 homes, businesses and other properties in the Libby area at a cost of roughly $500 million.

Concentrations of asbestos in the air around town is now 100,000 times lower than when the mine was operating from 1963 to 1990, the EPA said.

Those levels could be higher at the mine site ? where cleanup work has barely started ? and in areas where property owners have not given access to EPA contractors, the agency said.

“Where EPA has conducted cleanup, those cleanups are effective,” said Rebecca Thomas, EPA project manager in Libby.

She added that there will be some residual contamination left behind but only in places where officials determine there’s no threat of human exposure.

“As long as no one’s exposed to it, it doesn’t pose a risk and we’ll leave it in place,” Thomas said.

W.R. Grace and industry groups have criticized the EPA’s low threshold for exposure as unjustified and impossible to attain. They said the EPA limit was lower than naturally occurring asbestos levels in some places.

The criticism was one of the factors that delayed the risk study. In a report last year, the EPA’s inspector general said internal agency issues including contracting problems and unanticipated work also contributed to the delay.

W.R. Grace was “pleased to see EPA believes it has effectively managed the health risk to acceptable levels,” said Rich Badmington, a spokesman for the Columbia, Maryland-based chemical company

Still, the company believes the EPA’s threshold for exposure is too low, he said.

The town remains under a first-of-its kind public health emergency declaration issued by former EPA administrator Lisa Jackson in 2009.

Cleanup work is pending for as many as 500 homes and businesses in Libby and nearby Troy. Completing that work will take three to five years, Thomas said.

Because of the long latency period for asbestos-related diseases, it could be many years before some people in Libby develop medical complications.

Libby Mayor Doug Roll said moving forward with the study was critical for the tourism- and mining-dependent town. Roll said Libby wants to overcome its image of a poisoned community.

“Grace was the stumbling block, trying to put a bunch of their input into it,” Roll said. “We’re trying to get out from underneath this cloud and start promoting Libby as a place you can come and visit ? and not worry about the air quality.”

Original article:

Study of Montana Mining Town Says Cleanup Working

Federal Eye: Report: EPA asbestos experiment threatened public health

September 26

The federal agency in charge of protecting human health and the environment caused a threat in both of those areas while experimenting with a relatively new method for asbestos control, according to a watchdog report released Thursday.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s inspector general said the EPA overlooked violations of environmental law and disregarded research guidance while studying an alternative approach to demolishing asbestos-containing buildings.

“This resulted in wasted resources and the potential exposure of workers and the public to unsafe levels of asbestos,” the report said.

Auditors found that the research also lacked proper oversight or even an agreed-to goal. The project cost about $3.5 million for contracting, staff time and other expenses between 2004 and 2012.

“The high-dollar cost, potential public health risks, and failure of the [alternative method] to provide reliable data and results are management-control problems that need to be addressed,” the report said.

Asbestos is a human carcinogen. Exposure to the fibers, which were once commonly used for insulation, can cause deadly health problems such as lung cancer and mesothelioma.

EPA standards require trained technicians to remove asbestos from buildings before demolition in order to prevent the fibers from entering the air. But the agency wanted to test an alternative method: Wetting materials before and during the wrecking-and-removal process. The technique is already allowed for buildings that are on the verge of collapse.

The EPA research came as part of an nearly 20-year old initiative to find innovative and better approaches for protecting the environment and public health. In this case, the project backfired.

Auditors said the EPA “did not adequately address health and environmental issues,” adding that “key decisions on health and safety issues … were allowed to go unresolved.” The agency used its enforcement discretion to ignore violations of environmental law to support the experiment, according to the report.

The inspector general recommended that the EPA require its research to follow controlled processes. The agency agreed with the proposals and has already completed many of them.

“We continually are improving our research protocols and processes to achieve the highest possible scientific standards to protect the American public and our environment,” EPA press secretary Liz Purchia said in a statement. “We have made significant changes to our research planning process to require that all research includes oversight procedures and input from senior managers.”

The EPA has not approved the alternative asbestos-control method, and the agency will not use it as part of its standards for emissions and air pollutants, Purchia said.

Josh Hicks covers the federal government and anchors the Federal Eye blog. He reported for newspapers in the Detroit and Seattle suburbs before joining the Post as a contributor to Glenn Kessler’s Fact Checker blog in 2011.

Original article:

Federal Eye: Report: EPA asbestos experiment threatened public health

East Penn defends handling of buried asbestos-filled construction debris


Charges that the East Penn School District violated environmental laws by burying construction waste containing asbestos near one of its elementary schools were disputed by school officials Monday night.

In the summer of 2013, several dump truck loads of construction debris — including an unknown amount of potentially-hazardous asbestos — were dumped in the woods just west of Wescosville Elementary School in Lower Macungie Township.

East Penn officials say they don’t know who dumped the material behind the school — or where it came from.

But they do know that in the autumn of 2013, unidentified school district officials authorized burying that debris in a clay-lined pit on the same site.

Accusations that the district is involved in a cover-up were made by two residents and one of the school board’s own members during Monday’s school board meeting.

“Covering up a crime is a crime in itself,” said board member Lynn Donches.
“Why don’t we want to know who dumped the waste and who buried it?”

Resident Giovanni Landi also accused the board and administration “of covering up the fact that someone in the school district committed a crime.”

“How many of you before me are complicit in this illegal act?” asked resident Chris Donatelli.

“Two crimes occurred last year,” said Landi. “The first was the illegal dumping of hazardous wastes on school grounds. The second was burying the hazardous waste instead of notifying the authorities.

“It is a felony to dump hazardous materials and it is a felony to bury hazardous materials.”

“Dumping materials that are known to be carcinogenic anywhere is an illegal act,” said Donatelli. “Burying it rather than reporting it is not an innocent act. It is a deliberate attempt to hide the fact that somebody broke the law.”

Board president Alan Earnshaw said characterizing what happened as illegal acts is “a reckless misstatement of the facts.”

And board vice president Ken Bacher requested that people not refer to illegal activities by the school district, saying it has not been established that any illegal activities have been committed by East Penn.

But Donches did not back down from her position that illegal actions were taken at the Wescosville Elementary site – and once again found herself at odds with several of her angry colleagues.

“Has some kind of warrant of arrest been filed?” asked Earnshaw. “Has an indictment been made by law enforcement officers? Has the prosecution of any acts taken place? The answer is no.

“In our society, we are innocent until proven guilty. No one has been accused of a crime. No one has been convicted of a crime.”

Said Donches: “Although there have been no charges or whatever, I do have a statement from the Department of Environmental Protection that it is unlawful to dispose of any waste at a site that does not have a DEP permit to accept such waste.”

Donches maintained the district should have contacted proper authorities when the illegal dumpsite first was discovered on school district property and before any decision was made to bury the construction debris on-site.

“I’m not interested at all in identifying who made mistakes or making this a bigger deal than it really is,” said Superintendent J. Michael Schilder.

“I’ve been assured by DEP, EPA and the asbestos management firm that there is no harm to children or any person in the area, whether it stays in the ground or whether it’s removed.

“EPA went to great lengths to tell us that they thought we were handling it perfectly appropriately and DEP said the same thing.”

Not hazardous asbestos?

Earlier this month, the school board agreed to hire ALM Abatement Services of Coopersburg to remove and properly dispose of soil and associated rubbish that has been contaminated with what is believed to be “non-friable” asbestos.

While asbestos fibers can cause cancer if inhaled, those fibers are less likely to be released in non-friable asbestos. Friable asbestos can be crumbled by hand, releasing the hazardous fibers into the air.

Ballard suggested only a small fraction of the buried debris is asbestos.

Continue at source – 

East Penn defends handling of buried asbestos-filled construction debris

Asbestos proves to be a microscopic road block near Boulder City


L.E. Baskow

UNLV geology professor Brenda Buck and associate professor Rodney Metcalf confer over samples in their lab. They found asbestos in Boulder City that is delaying construction of a highway bypass.

In November 2011, two UNLV scientists touched carbon tape to a sample of bluish-grey mineral on the face of a rock found south of Henderson, then placed it under a microscope. The computer screen showed telltale white fibers, long and slim, like miniature straws.

Asbestos is a mineral fiber found in rock and soil. In the ’60s and ’70s, it was a popular building material.

• Eldorado Hills, Calif.: Naturally occurring asbestos was found in this Sacramento suburb in September 2003 in the soil of the high school. In less than a year, after about $2.5 million in cleanup costs, the EPA and Oak Ridge High significantly cut the health risk to students by landscaping to reduce dust and prevent asbestos fibers from getting airborne.

• Clear Creek Management Area, Calif.: Atop one of the largest asbestos deposits in the world, this recreation area sits on a 29,000-acre serpentine deposit in San Benito and Fresno counties. Inside is the Atlas Asbestos Mine Superfund site, which first got the EPA’s attention in 1984 when large amounts of erosion caused asbestos to flow downstream into the California aqueduct. Since then, the water has been cleaned up, all the mines closed and measures taken to stop erosion. The Bureau of Land Management designated the area as hazardous and propped asbestos warning signs up at entrance points.

• Libby Superfund Site, Mont.: Libby, a former mining town of fewer than 3,000, has been on the EPA’s National Priorities List of most contaminated sites since 1983. In June 2009, it was designated a public health emergency. Contamination was town-wide, partly because residents used vermiculite as a soil additive in their gardens.

• North Ridge Estates Superfund Site, Ore.: Also on the National Priorities List, North Ridge Estates is a residential subdivision near Klamath Falls. Asbestos remnants were found across 50 acres of the neighborhood. The source: demolition debris from the Marine Recuperational Barracks, a complex of about 80 1940s-era buildings that housed soldiers recovering from tropical illnesses. In 2005, exposure risk was determined to be so high that residents were temporarily relocated for the summer when children were on school break and the climate was driest and windiest.

• Torch Lake Superfund, Mich.: From 1868 to 1968, copper mining and smelting operations dumped an estimated 200 million pounds of toxic tailings containing asbestos into Torch Lake on the east side of Lake Michigan. The primary concern is the ecosystem, particularly bottom-dwelling animals whose volume was, pre-cleanup, 20 percent contaminant.

• Carter Carburetor, Mo.: Carter Carburetor, a gasoline and diesel engine manufacturing plant just outside of St. Louis, was active from the 1920s to about 1984, when it was dismantled. Asbestos, found in machinery, furniture and building parts, along with toxic polychlorinated biphenyls and trichloroethylene used in the manufacturing process, were found at unacceptable levels.

It was what they feared: asbestos.

Asbestos used to be modern society’s friend — its strong, flexible, heat-resistant fibers mined and spun into insulation, fireproofing and decorative ceiling finishes. Only later was it discovered that, in certain forms, it can cause respiratory problems including scarred and inflamed lungs and, in extreme cases, cancer.

When UNLV geoscientists Brenda Buck, Rodney Metcalf and their colleagues published a scientific paper eight months ago on the presence of naturally occurring asbestos in Clark County, the effects were immediate and potentially far-reaching.

The discovery has stalled plans, more than 10 years in the making, to build a $490 million highway detour around Boulder City so traffic can move smoothly between Las Vegas and Arizona. Until that new highway is built, tourists, truckers and commuters must use Highway 93, which slices into town and slows miserably on busy days.

Beyond that, the first evidence of naturally occurring asbestos in Clark County may conceivably affect development not yet imagined. Asbestos becomes dangerous when disturbed, when it can be inhaled. That means construction potentially could whirl up a deadly cloud. Because the asbestos is a part of the landscape, cleanup is tough.

Bypass delays have frustrated the town.

“We can’t handle the traffic,” Boulder City Mayor Roger Tobler said. “If there’s an accident, it shuts down the whole town. I think this community is tired of what’s going on, and they have been for 10 years.”

The Nevada Department of Transportation and Regional Transportation Commission, partners in the bypass project, are frustrated too, with their own questions: Where exactly is the asbestos-carrying rock? Will construction activity stir it into the air? What is the health risk to workers and travelers?

Construction was scheduled to begin this spring but was put on hold in April to allow for asbestos testing and analysis. Results are expected next month.

NDOT, which is leading Phase I of the project — a 2.5-mile connector heading east from Highway 95 — is prepared to begin construction as soon as it gets the green light. The RTC’s work — a 12.5-mile stretch that finishes the bypass to near the Colorado River — isn’t scheduled to begin until early 2015.

But construction plans may have to be adjusted to reduce workers’ exposure to dust, and bids still need to be sought for contractors.

“Everyone wants to make sure that we proceed in the right manner, and I think we’re doing that,” Tobler said. “I don’t think (the asbestos) is going to hurt the project like it has in other places. I think we’ll be able to move forward.”

But asbestos has a history of slowing major public work projects. In Ambler, Alaska, its presence in a gravel pit stalled an airport expansion and sewage lagoon project for more than a decade. Outside San Jose, Calif., it delayed a $718 million dam replacement for at least three years, and workers now are required to wear protective clothing and decontaminate before leaving the site.

There are no federal regulations for dealing with naturally occurring asbestos. It’s left to states to create regulations based on Environmental Protection Agency and Occupational Safety and Health Administration guidelines addressing dust control, monitoring of air and soil, and worker exposure.

Nevada hasn’t created such regulations. Native asbestos doesn’t fall under county air quality standards, and Nevada OSHA has yet to address worker protection. For the most part, everyone is waiting for the test results or for the problem to come knocking on their door. Even the EPA, though aware of the Boulder City asbestos and acting as an adviser for mitigation, is waiting for a request from local officials before getting directly involved.

Meanwhile, Buck and Metcalf continue the research that sparked the issue.

Buck, who specializes in medical geology, started the asbestos study in 2011. A sample from the McCullough Range in Clark County, just south of Henderson, showed mineral actinolite — one of the six regulated forms of asbestos.

They teamed with scientists from the University of Hawaii, home to leading researchers on medical asbestos exposure, and started writing proposals for additional research funding, which they received in spring 2013. The mineral trail led them from the rolling, rocky hills of the McCullough Range overlooking Lake Mead to Highway 93 at Eldorado Dry Lake, a popular site for off-roading and Fourth of July parties, to the heart of Boulder City, beside Martha P. King Elementary School, and the outskirts of its southern and eastern neighborhoods. Every sample contained the fibrous amphiboles.

What was particularly concerning was that the type of asbestos fibers the geologists discovered are known to be particularly dangerous, and their breadth was much more extensive than what the UNLV team originally had thought.

“As soon as we found this out, we worked as fast as we could and as hard as we could to get the data published so that we could inform the public,” Buck said.

The fibers were similar to those found in Libby, Mont., where asbestos-rich mineral vermiculite was mined, leading to the town’s designation 15 years ago as a Superfund site. Many Libby residents have been diagnosed with asbestos-related illnesses, including cancer, due in part to their churning vermiculite into their gardens and vegetable patches as a soil conditioner.

The size and shape of the fibers, along with the type of mineral, determine how toxic it is. If it’s small enough, it becomes respirable. Of the fibers Buck and Metcalf found, 97 percent were respirable.

Dormant, undisturbed asbestos isn’t typically a problem. It’s often left in buildings and insulation because it isn’t dangerous unless it becomes airborne. In fact, the act of removing it often presents more danger than leaving it alone.

But that won’t be possible in construction of the highway bypass because explosives are needed to cut a route through the hills.

Thus the challenge: How to ensure the health of construction workers and motorists?

Part of the task includes assessing how extensive the asbestos is. To that end, the geologists are training the transportation departments’ asbestos analysts to spot the kind of rock that hosts the fibers.

There is no known amount of safe exposure to asbestos. But Michele Carbone, a leading researcher of mesothelioma, the cancer linked with asbestos exposure, said the immediate health risks are minimal. Risk rises with the amount of exposure and the concentration of fibers. Signs of the disease may not be evident for 40 years or more.

“Obviously, there is a significant risk, but the odds are you won’t get cancer,” Carbone said. “It takes significant, prolonged exposure. It’s not like shaking hands with someone, and you get the disease. People shouldn’t panic.”

Carbone, of the University of Hawaii, is working with Metcalf and Buck to test their samples on animal and human cells. His colleague Francine Baumann, an epidemiologist specializing in asbestos exposure, is looking at rates of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related illnesses in Southern Nevada to determine if the population already is at risk. She’s looking for trends of disease in young people and women, people least likely to be affected from working in places where asbestos might be present.

Nevada is not a hot spot for the disease; as of 2009, mesothelioma struck only about 20 Nevadans a year, keeping pace with the national average.

“Until we know more, one solution is to try and reduce exposure,” Buck said.

Off-road enthusiasts, for instance, may be encouraged to ride somewhere other than the Eldorado Valley.

Today, Buck and Metcalf are mapping the area where the asbestos may lurk, looking into areas with similar geology such as Searchlight, Laughlin and Lake Mead. And they’re trying to get funding to collect air samples, to determine the risk of exposure from different activities, including four-wheeling, horseback riding or simply taking a walk in areas that contain the asbestos.

When they go into the field, they’re careful, wearing respiratory devices and protective clothing. They take their own cars instead of the UNLV geoscience department’s vehicles, so they don’t expose students. They’ve notified UNLV geology, biology and anthropology departments to close down contaminated zones to fieldwork.

They’re worried about their own exposure, having spent years in the field kicking up dust and hammering into contaminated rock. They’re hoping it’s not as bad as it could be.

But they won’t know the answers until their research is complete.

Taken from:  

Asbestos proves to be a microscopic road block near Boulder City

Federal study: Asbestos exposure okay for short term at Alexandria apartment complex

Its letter to the EPA this week said that while concentrations of asbestos in the air “do not appear to be high enough to harm the health of people who breathe this air for relatively short periods of time . . . uncertainties described above make it difficult to say there is no long-term risk from exposures to low levels of asbestos that might remain in the building.”

The EPA issued a rare stop-work order on renovations at the apartment complex this month after inspectors discovered asbestos in the floors, doors and windows and found that work crews were not taking legally required precautions. The renovations have been going on since last summer, when a new owner bought the buildings from the Virginia Department of Transportation and began upgrading windows, floors, pipes and other basic infrastructure.

After multiple unresolved complaints from residents to the landlord, the city and the state, a resident called the EPA, which sent in teams of investigators. Renovations are still on hold.

The EPA plans to meet Monday with residents to discuss the results of the sampling and explain its next steps.

Stefanie Ackerman, a Hunting Point resident who has a 3-month-old child, said she feels better after reading the toxic-substances agency’s letter but has “mixed feelings” about the safety of the apartments. Ackerman, a George Washington University law student, is also exploring whether she and her fellow tenants should sue over the asbestos exposure.

The situation should make tenants wary, said Mary Hesdorffer, a nurse practitioner and executive director of the Alexandria-based nonprofit Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation. Mesothelioma is a form of cancer, most often caused by asbestos, that affects the smooth lining of the chest, lungs, heart and abdomen.

“The real crux of this is there was exposure to asbestos dust, and nobody has been able to settle how much [exposure] is too much,” Hesdorffer said after reviewing the letter. “There may be people who are more sensitive than others. We’re seeing younger and younger children with mesothelioma. . . . There is just no safe level.”

Hesdorffer advised Hunting Point residents to make sure that their medical records reflect that they’ve been exposed to asbestos, whether they fall ill in the near future or not. She added, “If anyone has cancer in the family . . . [they] may want to take even more precautions.”

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Federal study: Asbestos exposure okay for short term at Alexandria apartment complex

Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization Voices Opposition to the Chemical Safety Improvement Act (CSIA)


The Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO), which combines
education, advocacy and community as the leading U.S. organization
serving as the voice of asbestos victims, today began its formal
opposition to the Chemical Safety Improvement Act (CSIA) with the
release of its position
detailing how the bill is critically flawed. ADAO urges
Congress to stand up to the chemical industry on behalf of asbestos
victims by implementing a ban to end the use, importation, and
exportation of asbestos.

“Asbestos kills. In fact, 10,000 Americans die annually from preventable
asbestos-related diseases. In 1989, the U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA) issued a final rule under Section 6 of the Toxic Substance
Control Act (TSCA) banning most asbestos-containing products,” said
Linda Reinstein, President and Co-Founder of ADAO. “However, that rule
was vacated and remanded by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals and the
asbestos ban was overturned. Thus, TSCA, the principal federal law
governing the use and safety of the thousands of chemicals we are
exposed to in our everyday lives, failed to ban asbestos and
occupational, environmental, and consumer asbestos exposure continues

“Everyone agrees TSCA must be reformed to enable the EPA to protect
Americans from toxic chemicals; however, the Chemical Safety Improvement
Act (S. 1009) is the wrong bill for the job,” continued Reinstein. “Not
only do the same hurdles that prevented the EPA from banning asbestos in
1989 remain in S. 1009, the bill would also prevent states from taking
steps to complement federal efforts and protect their citizens from
toxic chemicals, such as asbestos.”

ADAO’s position paper details five ways that CSIA fails to give the EPA
the authority it needs to ban asbestos, which are as follows:

  • Next to Impossible to Phase Out or Ban Harmful
    . The CSIA would make it impossible for the EPA to ban
    or phase out the worst of the worst toxic chemicals on the market.
  • Grossly Inadequate Safety Standard. The
    CSIA’s safety standard would place a heavy burden on the EPA to find
    that a chemical such as asbestos is unsafe, rather than shifting the
    burden to chemical companies to show chemicals are safe.
  • Lack of Deadlines to Ensure Safety. The
    CSIA is virtually devoid of any deadlines that would require the EPA
    to act quickly to assess and restrict the use of harmful chemicals
    such as asbestos.
  • Unworkable Standard of Court Review. The
    CSIA would retain the unworkable standard of court review found in
    TSCA, which ultimately prevented the EPA from being able to ban
    asbestos in 1989.
  • Freeze on State Efforts to Protect People from
    . The CSIA contains far-reaching language that would
    paralyze states from being able to enforce existing laws, as well as
    pass new ones, to increase protections against harmful chemicals such
    as asbestos.

“Asbestos continues to be used in consumer products throughout the
United States and imported from abroad. The problems discussed in our
position paper represent just a handful of the ways that the CSIA would
fail to deliver meaningful reform,” concluded Reinstein. “For that
reason, the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization, the largest U.S.
independent asbestos victims’ organization, cannot support the bill as

About ADAO

The Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO) was
founded by asbestos victims and their families in 2004. ADAO seeks to
give asbestos victims a united voice to help ensure that their rights
are fairly represented and protected, and raise public awareness about
the dangers of asbestos exposure and the often deadly asbestos-related
diseases. ADAO is funded through voluntary contributions and staffed by
volunteers. For more information, visit www.asbestosdiseaseawareness.org.


Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization

Doug Larkin

Director of Communications



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Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization Voices Opposition to the Chemical Safety Improvement Act (CSIA)

Asbestos fears for residents near dump

FIRST ON 7: People in a town north of Adelaide fear deadly asbestos has been spread over a major highway by trucks heading to a nearby dump.

Residents of Lower Light are concerned for their own health and believe thousands of motorists driving along Port Wakefield Rd each day could also be at risk.

More than a decade ago, the Lawrence family erected sculptures on their property to protest against a dump being approved nearby.

They lost the fight, but now believe asbestos sheeting has blown out of dump trucks in front of their house.

“There have been about two-foot square pieces, but unfortunately the traffic has run over a lot of it, so now it has become dust on the roadside, which is even worse, so now we’re breathing it in and so are all the motorists passing by,” Christine Lawrence told 7News.

The broken pieces are scattered over a couple of kilometers of Port Wakefield Rd.

A warning sign and chemical protective suits have also been found.

“Before I retired I was in the building industry, so I’ve seen asbestos and I’m pretty sure it is asbestos,” Kevin Lawrence said.

The Mallala Council has alerted the Environmental Protection Authority.

“I would like to see the EPA come down here in the correct protective suiting and clean up the whole area,” councilor Terry Keen said.

The dump’s operator, Integrated Waste Services, said it will only respond to official complaints made to the EPA and at this stage it hasn’t received one.

It turns out it is the Transport Department’s responsibility – and it is sending crews to clean up the mess.

Link to article: 

Asbestos fears for residents near dump

EPA blamed for delays in asbestos study in Montana

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Internal investigators faulted the Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday for years of delays in completing health studies needed to guide the cleanup of a Montana mining town where hundreds of people have died from asbestos exposure.

The EPA‘s Office of Inspector General said in a report that the studies are necessary to determine whether expensive, ongoing cleanup efforts are working in the town of Libby.

The area near the northwest corner of the state, about 50 miles from the U.S.-Canada border, was declared a public health emergency in 2009, a decade after federal regulators first responded to concerns over asbestos dust that came from a W.R. Grace and Co. vermiculite mine.

The vermiculite was used as insulation in millions of homes across the U.S.

At least $447 million has been spent on the cleanup and the town remains under the first-of-its-kind emergency declaration issued by then-EPA administrator Lisa Jackson. The deaths among residents are expected to continue for decades due to the long latency of asbestos-related diseases.

The inspector General first raised concerns about the government’s failure to figure out the danger posed by Libby asbestos more than six years ago, at the prodding of U.S. Sen. Max Baucus and former Sen. Conrad Burns. After earlier denying proposals to carry out a formal risk assessment, the agency in 2007 said it would be done by 2010.

It’s still at work on the document, with completion now slated for late 2014.

“That should have been the first thing they did,” Libby Mayor Doug Roll said Thursday. “When something hurting people and in this case killing them you need to find out what’s toxic.”

In Thursday’s report, investigators attributed the delays to competing priorities within the agency, contracting problems and unanticipated work that came up as the process unfolded.

For his part, EPA Acting Regional Administrator Howard Cantor said the agency strongly disagrees with many of the Inspector General’s conclusions.

Cantor said the risk and toxicity studies are complex endeavors that need to be done properly to make sure Libby’s residents are protected.

He added that the cleanup already has addressed 1,700 homes and commercial properties and resulted in the removal of 1.2 million tons of contaminated soil.

“The rigor with which we’re undertaking efforts to protect public health and the environment have not been affected by these delays,” he said.

But the investigators said poor communication with Libby residents, members of Congress and the Inspector General’s Office compounded the problem. They added that the agency’s lack of transparency could undermine confidence in its work in Libby.

A draft toxicology study that is key to completing the risk assessment for Libby says even an extremely small amount of asbestos fibers from the now-shuttered W.R. Grace mine can cause health problems.

Representatives of W.R. Grace and others in the chemical industry have pushed for revisions, saying the toxicity level set by the EPA is impractical because it exceeds background levels of asbestos found in some parts of the country.

Montana U.S. Sen. Max Baucus said in a statement responding to Thursday’s report that the EPA needs to avoid its past mistakes and get its studies done quickly.

“We need to move forward with this toxicological assessment, so we are making the right decisions based on the right science,” Baucus said.

Meanwhile, the cleanup grinds on. At least 80 and up to 100 properties in town are queued up for work this year, according to the EPA.

Several hundred properties still need to be addressed, and that list could grow significantly if the agency’s studies determine certain properties need to be revisited.

Work on the mine site outside town has barely begun. It closed in 1990 and remains the responsibility of W.R. Grace. A company spokesman did not immediately reply to an Associated Press request for comment.

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EPA blamed for delays in asbestos study in Montana

Asbestos May Pose Health Hazards In Hurricane Sandy's Wake

Among the wreckage removed in Joplin, Mo., after the 2011 tornado was 2,600 tons of asbestos debris.

“That was a small community,” said Linda Reinstein, president of the nonprofit Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization. “Do the math, and we can recognize that we have a significant public health risk with Hurricane Sandy.”

With wind and water damage caused by Sandy compromising the integrity of homes, schools and other buildings along much of the East Coast, health experts warn of increased risks of exposure to a variety of environmental toxins. One of the most worrisome, they say, is asbestos. Much of the compromised construction materials, including roofing, piping and insulation, could contain the microscopic mineral fibers. And while a person generally can’t see it, smell it or taste it, they can breathe it and ingest it — and the consequences can be severe.

Asbestos is a known carcinogen, and its dangers have been recognized for nearly a century.

“As a cancer-causing agent, there is no safe level of exposure,” said Dr. Arthur Frank, chairman of the department of environmental and occupational health at Drexel University School of Public Health. “People putting asbestos into buildings died by droves. Putting the stuff in is not very different than taking it out. This is a significant risk.”

Buildings constructed before 1980 are more likely to contain the potentially deadly material, explained Reinstein. But because it is not banned by the Environmental Protection Agency, asbestos is still used in construction materials today.

In 1989, the EPA did issue a ban on most asbestos-containing products. But that regulation was overturned by a court two years later.

Today, up to 35 million homes, schools and businesses in the U.S. contain contaminated insulation, according to the EPA. What’s more, the U.S. Geological Survey reported in August that “asbestos consumption” increased by 13 percent from 2010 to 2011, for a total of 1,180 tons. Forty-one percent of that asbestos ended up in roof products.

The latter fact may be particularly concerning given that the superstorm sent roofs buckling, breaking and blowing off buildings. Damage to the asbestos tiles in the roof of a high school in Wallingford, Conn., will keep students out of school until at least midweek, according to the New Haven Register.

As long as it’s encapsulated in building materials, asbestos poses little risk of exposure. It’s also relatively safe when wet. But as Dr. James Melius of the New York State Laborers’ Health and Safety Trust Fund explained, once asbestos gets wet, deteriorates and then dries out, it may become “much more friable.”

In other words, it’s more likely to crumble and become pulverized into powder. The resulting dust can disperse into the air and into the lungs, where it can then become permanently lodged. Asbestos exposure is a known cause of life-threatening medical conditions such as mesothelioma, scarring of the lungs and lung cancer. Emerging research also implicates the fiber in ovarian and gastrointestinal cancers, possibly through contaminated food or water.

“The collateral damage will be untold for decades,” said Reinstein, referring to the fact that many of these diseases can take 30 to 40 years, or even longer, to manifest. The lag time has likewise complicating efforts to link exposures from Ground Zero dust with cancers including mesothelioma, which is a cancer of the chest and abdominal linings. The dust that rose and lingered and then settled at Ground Zero contained a long list of potentially cancer-causing ingredients, from benzene and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) to hundreds of tons of asbestos.

In the aftermath of any disaster, experts advise people uncertain of the make-up of debris material to err on the side of caution. “It could be mineral wool or fibrous glass,” said Frank, “but always assume it’s hazardous and treat it as if it was asbestos.”

That means hiring a specially trained professional to handle the hazardous debris — preferably while it is still wet or damp. Removed materials should be double-bagged, labeled and properly disposed of. Experts also suggest avoiding any activities that will generate dust, such as sweeping or vacuuming debris that may contain asbestos or other toxic materials.

“People are out there now looking for wedding pictures and clothing to stay warm,” said Reinstein. “Asbestos is not at the top of their mind.”

But even as they deal with the immediate concerns of the devastation, she recommends that people also consider the long-term consequences.

“My daughter and I watched my husband fight for his life and take his last breath,” said Reinstein, who lost her husband, Alan, to mesothelioma in 2006. “To watch my husband die of a preventable disease is beyond devastating.”

sandy asbestos home

The EPA has estimated that as many as 35 million homes, schools and businesses contain the potentially deadly material.

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Asbestos May Pose Health Hazards In Hurricane Sandy's Wake