The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) yesterday said it has determined that a public health emergency exists at the Libby asbestos site in northwest Montana. This is the first time the EPA has made a public health emergency declaration under the Superfund law (CERCLA). “This determination recognizes the serious impact to the public health from the contamination at Libby and underscores the need for further action and health care for area residents who have been or may be exposed to asbestos,” said the EPA in a press release. It noted that investigations performed by the Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry have found the incidence of occurrence of asbestosis in the Libby area staggeringly higher than the national average for the period from 1979-1998. In 1963, W.R. Grace, a construction materials and chemicals company bought Zonolite, a Libby, MT company that mined vermiculite, a mineral contaminated with asbestos. Last month a Montana federal jury acquitted W.R. Grace and three former executives of criminal charges related to the contamination. The Libby asbestos site has been on the EPA’s Superfund national priorities list since 2002, and cleanup has taken place since 2000. The mine closed in 1990. Check out I.I.I. information on asbestos liability.