Mike has good reason to be concerned. "From 2001–2003 my family worked at the former Stimson Lumber site and in 2004 the EPA told the people of Libby that they took 16,000 soil samples from all over the area," he says, "but they said the tests didn't warrant any concern." However, just one fiber of deadly tremolite asbestos is potentially enough to cause concern.
"After the EPA said they didn't find anything to be concerned about, I requested the University of Montana to test the bark and in one sample they found millions of fibers—in just one gram of bark," says Mike. "That more or less blew the EPA out of the water. When the university made these results public, that opened up the Asbestos Pandora's Box. If that amount of asbestos was in one gram of bark, what does one tree contain? And what had my family been exposed to?"
Mike's next concern was where this alleged contaminated bark went to. He says that wood chips were shipped all over the country as recreational and playground bark. KPAX News reported that some of the woodchips were used in public places such as parks. And if it couldn't get any worse for the people of Libby, some of the residents used large piles of woodchips and mulch in their gardens.
Why didn't the EPA make public its results of asbestos wood chips back in 2007 when it found out the contaminated wood chips were being sold by a local economic development official? And why has it come to light now?
U.S. Sen. Max Baucus called for an investigation into the wood chips after The Associated Press reported how the alleged asbestos-contaminated wood chips and bark had been sold and widely used as landscaping material by government officials and residents of Libby. In July, the EPA went back to Libby for another round of testing, in an attempt to gauge the health risk.
"EPA needs to understand it has a responsibility to earn Libby's trust and that means going above and beyond to keep folks informed," Baucus said. "Priority number one is making sure folks are safe, and these new tests will help us figure out if the wood chips are dangerous and whether more steps need to be taken to protect the community." According to Mike Crill, not much protection has ever been done…
READ MORE ASBESTOS MESOTHELIOMA LEGAL NEWS
On August 31, 2011, KAJ News reported that EPA officials received results for six out of the nine bulk samples of wood chips they tested, two of which tested positive for asbestos. "It's a single fiber sample result that we've gotten from those samples, which is in the .0002 range, and is very low levels," said Mike Cirian, an EPA official. Questions still need to be answered, namely this: Is asbestos safe at any level? Not according to the World Health Organization and health officials worldwide. And not according to Mike Crill.