The Environmental Protection Agency has declared a “public health emergency” in a Montana town where 200 people have died from asbestos poisoning, CNN reports. For 10 years the EPA has been involved in a cleanup of Libby, contaminated by castoff from a nearby vermiculite mine and insulation plant. The mine operator was acquitted last month on criminal charges stemming from the deaths.
1,000 illnesses have also resulted from asbestos poisoning in Libby. “This is a tragic public health situation that has not received the recognition it deserves by the federal government for far too long,” said EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson. During her confirmation hearing, Montana Sen. Max Baucus urged the Obama administration to help the 12,000 Libby residents who’d been “hung out to dry.”