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Libby, Montana – Health Emergency Declared June 17

The Environmental Protection Agency has declared a public health emergency in a Libby, Montana, a town contaminated by asbestos from a vermiculite mine. Hundreds of miners, their family members, and community members have died, and thousands have been sickened from exposure to the asbestos-containing ore. The announcement was made today at a joint press conference with Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and U.S. Senators Max Baucus and Jon Tester. This is the first time the EPA has made such a declaration under authority of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) that conditions presented a significant threat to public health.

This will not result in an evacuation, but will require an extensive cleanup and better health protections for residents with asbestos-related illnesses. The EPA is working with the Department of Health and Human Services, which is making available a $6 million grant to provide asbestos-related medical care to Libby and residents of Troy, another Montana town. The Libby mine was the source of over 70 percent of all vermiculite sold in the United States until it was closed in 1990.

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