Terry Trent Opinion: EPA’s record of decision is in error

by Placerville Newswire / Feb 12, 2016 / comments

Admittedly, Libby is much better off from a future health perspective, than it was before EPA’s clean up. This assumes that the cleanup itself hasn’t or will cause additional disease, which is hard to imagine that it didn’t or will not. But that won’t last and more.

Sadly, where one might expect an overall response from EPA in Libby that would discourage other areas of the U.S. from ever creating such situations, the story that EPA and ATSDR have created for Libby does precisely the opposite. By not measuring in ambient air for the offending toxin, Libby Amphibole asbestos, choosing rather to measure structures in the air, EPA has provided a highly sound defense for future business in the U.S. to avoid liability. Also by comparing other Montana town’s ambient air, to Libby, where only Chrysotile asbestos is found in the air, EPA has not just helped other offenders create a sound defense for causing disease from asbestos but manipulated the thinking of an entire town into a false sense of security.

Why did EPA ever bother to create a new IRIS classification for the increased toxicity of Libby Amphibole asbestos, if they never had any plans to use that increased toxicity for the benefit of the people of Libby? Why is every place else equal to Libby after all that trouble? Why does asbestos in air in Whitefish or Eureka, have anything to do with Libby’s air shed? It doesn’t. Nor do the air measurements actually taken in Libby have much to do with disease in Libby.  
Personally, if I had a development corporation, or mining company, I needed to defend from lawsuits over deaths created by asbestos exposures, the number one defense that comes to mind, would be to put ATSDR and EPA employees on the stand to testify to the story they have created in Libby. Exhibit A would be the comparative testing results from other towns in Montana. Exhibit A-Prime would be testing results created by not just EPA in Libby, but the University of Pennsylvania in Ambler, Penn., California Air Resources Board in El Dorado County, Calif., and air testing results in Jefferson Parish, La., as well. All of it Chrysotile. But all of the disease in these places has been caused by amphiboles. Heck, I would introduce tape recordings from EPA officials in the 1990s and a transcript from the International Asbestos Conference in Oakland, Calif., in 2001, where these same people say “There is no Tremolite in California or in El Dorado County” based upon over 30 years of air testing. EPA employees can now be considered the number one witness for corporations who wish to deny money to those they have managed to kill. As a company I could now expose anyone I like, within EPA jurisdiction, with complete impunity, and subpoena EPA to back me up. I am not kidding.

That confused and highly erroneous story created by EPA in Libby also, coincidentally, stops EPA from telling other communities in America that the material cannot be cleaned up, as they have legitimately told you in Libby. And it is now fair game to measure structures instead of the deadly crocidolite or tremolite and its analog fibers. Why? Because actually measuring shows the huge flaw in EPA’s nationwide story. 

This is just the first error. Libby has not yet heard that top soil placed over asbestos does not work for very long. In both Ambler and El Dorado, fibers continue up through the top two feet or more of clean soil to expose people and animals, almost as if the fibers were never covered up. Just wait until you get to that part. There are no ROD institutional controls or other promises that will ever cover the numerous situations that will arise in Libby in the future. People in Libby should be able to find that out right now, by investigating long ago previously covered spots. 
Terry Trent
Auburn, Calif. [Formerly of El Dorado County]