W.R. Grace & Co. agreed to pay $250 million to reimburse the U.S.
EPA for ongoing cleanup of the asbestos-ridden mining town of Libby, Mont.
A mine owned by Grace that operated from 1963 until 1990 contaminated
much of the town with asbestos-tainted vermiculite. Over 200 area
residents have died from related cancers, and over 1,200 more show
signs of lung abnormalities. The company is facing criminal charges,
including conspiring to hide the dangers of asbestos, in a trial to
begin later this year. Cleanup of the town and surrounding areas began
in 2000; so far, costs have totaled about $168 million, with another
$175 million likely in future costs. The U.S. Supreme Court in 2006 ordered
the company to pay $54.5 million for cleanup operations through 2001,
but Grace filed bankruptcy shortly after the suit was filed and never
paid up. The never-paid costs were incorporated into the $250 million
reimbursement figure. Once it’s approved by a federal bankruptcy judge,
Grace must pay the $250 million within 30 days.