Libby cleanup in the final stretch

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Libby residents who were exposed to the toxic asbestos dust from the former W.R. Grace & Co. vermiculite mine will be dealing with asbestos-related disease for many years to come, perhaps even decades given the agonizingly long latency period for those diseases.

But there was a measure of good news this week as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced it was delisting a portion of the Libby Asbestos Superfund site — the former mine screening plant — from the National Priorities List because the cleanup is complete. The EPA has been grinding away at the cleanup of contaminated soil for the better part of two decades, with the cleanup now done except for a couple of Libby area properties and the mine site itself. More than 1 million cubic yards of tainted soils have been removed.

It remains to be seen how difficult the cleanup will be for the mine site. A community meeting is scheduled April 24 in Libby to discuss a plan of action and updates on fire-season planning and preparation. Wildfires the past couple of years have come close to the mine site, so it makes good sense to have all of the government resource agencies on the same page when it comes to protecting that area from fire.

Libby folks have been put to the test since the widespread asbestos contamination of their community came to light in 1999. They’re a tenacious bunch who have rallied in the face of adversity. With the cleanup now in the final stretches, the future is looking brighter than ever for this scenic corner of Montana.

Rose Crossing is finally getting the attention it deserves.

County commissioners last week announced that safety measures will be put in place at a dangerous curve on the thoroughfare between U.S. 93 and U.S. 2 north of Kalispell. The Montana Department of Transportation plans to install signs warning of the curve, along with a flashing sign placed at the 90-degree turn near Rose Bud Lane.

These measures seem to be reasonable first steps at addressing the safety concerns along this once-rural road, and we’re pleased to see the commissioners and Montana Department of Transportation respond to the outcry of commuters and nearby residents.

The curve was the site of numerous accidents last winter, and we suspect that the likelihood of more wrecks will only increase as development expands in that area. The commissioners need to keep an eye on this stretch of road and consider whether additional safety measures will be needed going forward.

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