Libby Asbestos Superfund Site: W.R. Grace Acquitted

Posted by Trish Riley, May 22, 2009

It’s business as usual in the U.S. – another big corporation was given a free pass to profit in spite of health and safety hazards related to its work. Food for thought for other communities facing Superfund issues:

The Missoula Independent Online – No Justice for Libby

–Amy Peacock

“A collective stunned silence hit the state of Montana at lunch time on Friday, May 8, as news filtered out from U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy’s Missoula courtroom that W.R. Grace & Co. and three of its former executives had been acquitted of all crimes in connection with the asbestos poisoning of Libby, Montana.

More than 270 people from Libby lie in their graves due to asbestos from the mine, and another 1,800 (from a community of about 12,000) walk around with the likely death sentence of an asbestos-related diagnosis.

When W.R. Grace executives closed the Libby mine in 1990, sold off their properties, then split town, they did so knowing that the high school and middle school running tracks had been paved with mine tailings; that the Plummer Elementary School ice skating rink was constructed with its ore; that the former screening plant sold to a local family, the Parkers, for their nursery and storage businesses was blanketed with asbestos-contaminated vermiculite; that the export plant it donated to the town—which was leased for a family-run retail lumber and planing business—was also chock full of the stuff.

When people became sick, when people died, their families took Grace to court and won: sometimes settlements, sometimes guilty verdicts—all amounting to modest sums of money. To the company, it was the cost of doing business. Grace had profited from Libby, unloaded its contaminated properties, and gotten out of town more or less unscathed.

“Obstruct and block,” [former Grace executive] Locke wrote [in a company memo]. “Be slow, review things extensively and contribute to delay.”  “

Read the details of how the company got away with poisoning this community with carcinogens: The Missoula Independent Online – No Justice for Libby.

EPA info on the Libby Asbestos Superfund site: