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Asbestos found in NLR dirt

The Environmental Protection Agency held a public information meeting with residents of North Little Rock Thursday night after finding asbestos in area soil samples.
NORTH LITTLE ROCK, AR – The Environmental Protection Agency held a public information meeting with residents of North Little Rock Thursday night after finding asbestos in area soil samples. Most of the residents who live near the asbestos claim to have breathing problems and family members who died from lung cancer.

The EPA says the asbestos originated from a contaminated vermiculite mine in Libby, Montana. Vermiculite is used as building insulation and as a soil conditioner, and until 1990, the mine in Montana accounted for 80% of the world’s supply of the mineral.

Only now is the EPA testing the 100 plus sites throughout the country the contaminated vermiculite has been shipped to in the past 60 years including a former Zonolite plant in North Little Rock.

In July, the EPA started testing soil near the now abandoned North Little Rock plant for asbestos finding multiple asbestos contaminated soil samples. One sample was found in a park across the street form the former plant. The area is now temporarily fenced in, but residents of the neighborhood fear a fence can’t save their already ailing health.

“People are just dying with cancer, cancer, cancer, cancer and no one really knows why. I know you’re supposed to expect for people to get sick, but not just dropping off like that,” said Donnell Flowers. He’s lived in the area for 29 years and says no one ever told him why the plany across the street from his house was suddenly shut down in 1989.

Neither the Health Department nor the EPA will link the asbestos findings to the residents’ health problems yet. The EPA representatives at the meeting will only say they are not looking at what has happened in the past and are only focusing on what they can do now.

In 1999, the EPA began the cleanup of the Libby Asbestos Superfund Site.
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