Tester demands answers from EPA over new Libby asbestos concerns
Senator requests meeting with EPA Administrator
(U.S. SENATE) – U.S. Senator Jon Tester has new questions for the Environmental Protection Agency following recent reports that the agency did not notify Libby residents sooner about concerns over asbestos-contaminated mulch.
In a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, Tester demanded more answers from the agency to “ensure that the process in Libby is transparent and the community understands the science behind the decisions made about the clean up.”
Tester included several questions for Jackson about what the EPA knew about the contamination and when.
Tester also challenged the EPA’s claim that contaminated mulch did not present a risk to the community when tested for asbestos in 2007.
“Yet now you are asking local businesses to restrict its sale and movement over new concerns from developing toxicity data and community concerns,” Tester wrote. “This situation raises a number of questions about EPA's monitoring and health precautions in Libby.”
“People in Libby want answers from the EPA when it comes to very simple questions, and my job is to hold the agency accountable until we get answers,” Tester said. “Folks in and around Libby deserve to know exactly what happened, and what risks still pose a health and economic threat to the wellbeing of Libby.”
Tester also asked the EPA to provide him with their plan for moving forward regarding more testing, cleaning of properties, and plans to prevent future contaminations.
Tester’s letter to Lisa Jackson appears below and online HERE.
July 13, 2011
The Honorable Lisa Jackson
Environmental Protection Agency
Ariel Rios Building
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20460
Dear Administrator Jackson:
Last week, the Associated Press reported that potentially toxic mulch stockpiled in Libby, Montana, was distributed both in and out of the community without EPA's oversight. Your agency tested the mulch in 2007 and reported that four of the 20 samples taken contained asbestos. At that time, the agency determined that the level of contamination did not present a risk to the community. Your agency stated that no restrictions were placed upon the mulch, its sale, and its movement because of the perceived low risk it had compared to other clean up priorities in Libby. Yet now you are asking local businesses to restrict its sale and movement over new concerns from developing toxicity data and community concerns.
This situation raises a number of questions about EPA's monitoring and health precautions in Libby. I want to ensure that the process in Libby is transparent and the community understands
the science behind the decisions made about the clean up. I therefore request more details on the EPA's decisions on this matter and how you plan to address future concerns. Specifically:
• Why was the community not immediately informed about the potential risks? If your agency didn't determine a result of four in 20 samples showing toxicity, what results would you have needed to determine it indeed was a risk?
• What changed between the testing in 2007 and March 25, 2011, when the EPA cautioned on transporting or selling this material? Why was this restriction not in place earlier?
• How much of this mulch was shipped out of the Libby area? The region? What are the plans for monitoring and controlling this mulch?
• How many homes in Libby currently use this mulch? Will these properties need to be recleaned? If so, how many yards will you need to re-clean because of the use of this mulch? What will be the increased cost of these additional re-cleanings?
• You have indicated there will be further testing of the mulch. Where in the process is your planned additional sampling? Will that include Activity Based Sampling? Will it include special considerations for this material after being moved?
I understand the process for clean up has changed over the years as you learn more about the long-term effects of even small exposure to asbestos. I would like to reiterate my concern that residents in Lincoln County are made aware of the toxicity values and risks as soon as possible.
Finally, I request a meeting with you at your earliest convenience to discuss these questions and provide an update on the EPA's ongoing cleanup efforts and toxicity assessment in Libby. I know you are aware of how critically important it is that every necessary precaution is taken to ensure the health of every community member in Libby.
Thank you for your consideration.
United States Senator