Libby Asbestos Superfund site: Advisory Team holds second meeting

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By JOHN BLODGETT

The Western News

The Libby Asbestos Superfund Advisory Team, outlined in Senate Bill 315 and signed into law Montana by Gov. Steve Bullock on May 4, held its second meeting Monday, Dec. 18 in Helena.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Chas Vincent (R-Libby), created the advisory team, a trust fund and an operation and maintenance account and a liaison, among other items related to the cleanup of the Libby Asbestos Superfund site. The team is required by law to meet quarterly and first met Sept. 21.

“The team is off to a strong start, with engaged representatives of state government, local government and, most importantly, the community,” Karen Ogden, spokesperson for Montana Department of Environmental Quality, said via email.

The team is comprised of five people chosen according to parameters outline in SB315. Three people had been chosen going into Monday’s meeting: DEQ Director Tom Livers, who serves as the team chair; Lincoln County Commissioner Mark Peck; and Rep. Steve Gunderson (Montana District 1).

A fourth member, George Jamison, was recently confirmed by Bullock as the team’s citizen representative, Ogden wrote, while Sen. Chas Vincent is expected to be confirmed as a member of the Senate whose district includes at least a portion of Lincoln County.

At Monday’s meeting, DEQ Project Manager Lisa Dewitt provided an overview of the Libby Superfund Site and the status of its operable units.

The team also discussed recruiting for the Libby Liaison position, which, Ogden wrote, “is critical to the team’s success.”

According to SB315, the liaison will be a DEQ employee who serves as staff to the advisory team.

“The liaison shall represent the interests of Lincoln County and the state by assisting the department of environmental quality in dealing with federal agencies related to the Libby asbestos superfund site,” the bill states.

The bill also stipulates that the Lincoln County commission will nominate three candidates for the position and the governor will make the final decision.

Ogden said the team will recruit online from throughout Montana and in the Spokane and Denver areas.

“There is not a formal deadline to fill the position,” she wrote. “However, the team decided to post the position in January and set a goal of filling the position by March.”

In addition to recruiting for the liaison position, Ogden said another primary task is to provide the team with updated budget information for fiscal year 2018.

The team’s next meeting will be held in Libby in February or March.

“It will be an evening meeting to make it convenient for community members to attend,” Ogden wrote. “We will announce and publicize the meeting date as soon as it is finalized.”

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