Libby, Montana: Natural Resources and Public Health

BY: Vu Ngoc Bich (Millie)

First section this morning was the workshop with Lincoln Country Environmental Health Department in Libby hosted by Flathead Valley Community College. Our group had the opportunity to get to know more about the history of the Superfund site: the development and evolution of the mine, its effect on the community.

Attending the morning section was really eye-opening for me about vermiculite and asbestos. These two kinds of mineral has been causing serious health problems for the people living in the city, leaving illnesses and deaths in the Libby community over the past 70 years. Jenifer McCully, who is the speaker of the section, showed us some samples of vermiculite, asbestos and the mix of vermiculite and asbestos. Jenifer mentioned that it takes 10-40 years to stop the diseases caused by these minerals and it is definitely not a short period. She also talked about the current removal action process that EPA is applying as well as the institutional controls to minimize the potential for exposure to contamination and protect human health. I really enjoyed the workshop, because it really reminded me about my home city, Ho Chi Minh, where air pollution is accelerating at an alarming rate because of the increase in using vehicles.

In the afternoon, we had the second section with Mr. Mike Cirian, Remedial Project Manager of U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). We discussed about the roles, the activities as well as the implementing projects of the EPA in the region. Following the workshop was the tour in relevant sites in and around Libby, including landfills, clean-up housing places and a new green park which used to be a clean-up house place 2 years ago. I was absolutely surprised and amazed by the change they made in this new park when standing here breathing the clean air by a beautiful river. And I was inspired and as well, by the efforts and the dream of these people to make Libby clean and green despite the polluted air and dust. Not to mention that these people here are so admirable, when they spend most of the time of their lives to protect and take care of the land they love.

We said goodbye to the park and Mr. Mike to move to the next destination, the Kootenai National Forest, which is an extra activity and did not happen to be in our plan in the beginning, but I believe none of us regretted coming here. Breathtaking and magnificent scenery and mountains and waterfall here have taken our breaths away. Been to forests before but here in Kootenai, I could feel the different experiences. We had such great time blending into the nature and I know this experiences will be unforgettable to all of us.

And after today, I think I can truly understand what they always say: “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away”.

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