The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced it is relinquishing its responsibility to protect the towns of Troy and Libby, Montana, from asbestos contamination. The responsibility will now become the job of state regulators. Both towns gained the attention of people in Illinois and across the nation when it was first revealed that asbestos exposure was the cause of death for some residents.

The issue began more than three decades ago when a vermiculite mine contaminated the area with asbestos. The mine was closed for operations in 1990, and the cleanup of the area began in 2000. The federal government involved themselves in the situation after media sources began to spread the word of the health crisis.

The microscopic fibers contained in asbestos are dangerous to human beings when inhaled. More than 400 people in Northwest Montana died due to the asbestos contamination and several thousand more suffered through various degrees of illness.

The EPA’s Superfund Program was responsible for the $600 million that was necessary to clean more than 2,600 homes and businesses located in the affected area. The process involved the removal of over 1 million cubic yards of soil.

All parties involved agree that more asbestos is present in both the homes and soil in the area. However, the responsibility for new contamination discoveries will now rest with the local and state governments in Montana.

The annual $663,500 the state is expected to spend annually on the effort will include the cost of inspections and any additional cleanups that are needed.

Asbestos contamination is a serious matter that can cause permanent lung damage for people who come in contact with this harmful substance. Individuals and families whose health has been affected by exposure to asbestos may benefit from speaking to a lawyer about holding the responsible parties accountable.