EPA Finds Asbestos-contaminated Libby Forest Libby, Mont – A new research says timber harvesting can effectively be used as a potential remedy for a swath of asbestos-filled Libby forest, where vermiculite mining for decades resulted in extensive pollution. The 35000 acre forest is fully contaminated and so far has escaped being burned. Asbestos-linked diseases have killed approximately 400 individuals and sickened more than 1750 people in Libby, Montana since the W.R. Grace Vermiculite mining released asbestos fibers into the air of the mountain town, which is said to be the country’s most lethal superfund site. Thus far, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has spent around $370 M in efforts to cleanup asbestos-tainted soil and building materials from there. The Vermiculite mine, which is no longer functional, produced 2 M tons of asbestos-containing ore yearly and engaged 200 individuals when it was running in full capacity. This vermiculite was exported to countries all over the world for making insulation. Just as they pierced into the human lungs’ pleural lining, microscopic asbestos fibers also penetrated the barks of Douglas fir, lodgepole pine, larch and ponderosa in the Libby forests. A Montana University study in year 2004 measured as well as confirmed concentrations of asbestos in trees close to the Vermiculite mine site. However, the Environmental Protection Agency, which determined Libby as a dangerous Superfund site in year 2002 and made a public health emergency declaration in year 2009, had been busy with its attempts to clean up homes, schools, playgrounds and businesses. A remediation program for the contaminated forest is not in place still. It may take several years for any such efforts to begin. In the mean time, residents regularly cut logs from the forest and therefore a fire could be disastrous. In recent times, 2 remediation firms – Missoula (Mont)-based Envirocon and Po rtland (OR)-based Beck Group – won contract from the Lincoln Port Authority for drafting a feasibility research to develop a remediation program for the forest located 6 miles outside the city center of Libby. Asbestos concentrations in this site are still the highest. No evidence is there to ensure that the trees’ meat has been contaminated by the fibers of asbestos. However, according to the study reports, if harvesting as well as debarking could be attained in a safe and financially feasible manner, the sale of the timber would be profitable. Remedial measures may take 10 or more years to complete, according to the project team.