Libby Asbestos Superfund Site: Holdout property owners have only two more chances for EPA testing, cleaning

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People who have refused to allow the Environmental Protection Agency to inspect their properties for asbestos contamination or to clean up after its discovery will have two final chances to change their minds, a local EPA official told the Lincoln County Commission on Sept. 27.

Property owners can call now or within about 30 days of receiving a notice of environmental conditions, according to Libby Onsite Project Manager Mike Cirian.

The notices, indicating a property was not tested for asbestos contamination or decontaminated, will be mailed by the end of the year and filed with the Lincoln County Clerk and Recorders Office.

“It is very important that people know what’s going on (with these properties),” Cirian told the commissioners, likening it to notices indicating the presence of lead in a home.

Dania Zinner, an EPA remedial project manager, said at the meeting such notices have worked well as an institutional control for a residential cleanup site in her homebase of Denver.

A notice of environmental conditions allows a potential buyer to negotiate on price or require that cleanup be a condition of purchase, she said.

“You are able to withdraw (the notice) if you do your sampling or your cleanup in the future,” she said to the commission.

When Commissioner Mike Cole asked if instructions would be provided alongside the notices for “how to get out of it,” Zinner and Cirian said yes.

County Clerk and Recorder Robin Benson noted that such notices could not be deleted from a property file. Zinner and Cirian responded by saying any withdrawal notice would refer to the original notice.

Zinner also noted the EPA would manage sending the notices and recording them with the county.

Cirian said the EPA can schedule an inspection by the end of October for property owners who call by Sept. 30.

Those who don’t call by then and receive a notice of environmental conditions must schedule a cleanup as soon as possible — likely within a 30-day window — due to the availability of resources.

“It’s important to folks who get this letter and they want to participate know that they’ve got to call immediately,” Cirian said.

For more information or to schedule a test call 406-293-6194.

Cirian said the EPA’s previous call for appointments earlier this year “was very successful,” resulting in “a couple hundred more investigations” and about 70 properties scheduled for some form of remediation.

“We’ve got right now 52 scheduled for next year, and couple of them are very large properties, over 30,000 square feet,” Cirian said.

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