Montana March 16, 2018
The Tiny Town In Montana With A Terribly Creepy Past
The town of Libby, Montana is absolutely beautiful. Surrounded by the stunning scenery of Lincoln County and the majestic Kootenai Falls, you’d never guess that such a peaceful place could have a sordid past. If you didn’t know any better, you’d think nothing newsworthy had ever happened here.
Due to its geographic location, Libby's economy has always been largely supported by logging and mining.
And unfortunately, the mining industry is where the mess started.
The trouble began in 1919 when companies first started pulling vermiculite out of mines in Libby. Vermiculite was used in construction materials, including insulation for homes and buildings.
Unfortunately, vermiculite was contaminated with asbestos and caused major health complications. And when W.R. Grace & Company took over operation of the mines in 1963, they knew all of this.
Despite knowing the risks, W.R. Grace & Company failed to warn anyone, and the people of Libby worked in the mines for decades.
And those workers weren't the only ones affected. Other locals were also harmed. Leftover vermiculite was distributed for use in playgrounds, backyards, gardens, roads, and even baseball fields where children played. All while the higher-ups at the mine knew the town was being poisoned.
The results have been devastating. Hundreds of miners, their family members, and other locals died, and at least 1,200 (probably many more) have been sickened from exposure.
It wasn't until 1999 when the Seattle P.I. published a series of articles about Libby titled "Uncivil Action: A Town Left to Die," that the story received national attention. The EPA soon began the largest, longest-running asbestos cleanup project in American history.
After almost 15 years of thorough clean up, the EPA announced that Libby was safe. There is no more danger of asbestos exposure.
But that doesn't help the people and their families who were exposed or the poor souls who lost their lives. Asbestosis is a cruel thickening of the lungs caused by exposure to asbestos. It's a horrible way to die, and it is unfathomable that so many good people watched their parents, spouses, and friends suffer and die slowly and painfully.
Needless to say, the people of W.R. Grace & Company have spent a lot of time in court.
While the executives were acquitted of criminal charges in 2009, they have been sued privately many times and have paid quite a few settlements to families affected. The company also claims to have voluntarily paid the medical bills of more than 900 residents.
Again, don't let this deter you from visiting Libby today.
The town is beautiful (and free of danger), the people are friendly, there are great places to eat and things to see and hikes to enjoy. The community has come together to put the past behind them and move forward.
What happened to the people of Libby is absolutely tragic. But these days, it’s a laid-back, peaceful place, perfect for visiting when you need to
get away from it all.