Department of Transportation proposes

safety project South of Libby

The Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) would like to notify the public and seek comments on a proposal to install safety features and widen the shoulders for about 0.5 miles of US Highway 2 near Libby. The project begins about 0.1 miles south of northern Terrace View Road at reference post 38.5 and extends southerly for approximately 0.5 miles, ending at the southern Terrace View Road approach at reference post 39.0.

Proposed work includes shoulder widening, roadside slope flattening, replacing guardrail, new shoulder rumble strips, and signing on US Hwy 2. The purpose of this project is to improve roadside safety by addressing an identified crash trend at this location.

The project is tentatively scheduled for construction in 2022, depending on completion of all project development activities and availability of funding.

New right-of-way and utility relocations may be needed.

Members of the public may submit written comments to the Montana Department of Transportation Missoula office at PO Box 7039, Missoula, MT  59807-7039 or online at www.mdt.mt.gov/mdt/comment_form.shtml . Please note that your comments are for project UPN 9637000.

For more information, please contact acting Missoula Acting District Administrator Bob Vosen at (406) 523-5802 or Project Design Engineer Nathaniel Walters at (406) 523‑5833.

Alternative accessible formats of this document will be provided on request. Persons who need an alternative format should contact the Human Resources and Occupational Safety Division, Department of Transportation, 2701 Prospect Avenue, PO Box 201001, Helena, MT 59620. Telephone 406-444-9229. Those using a TTY may call 1(800)335-7592 or through the Montana Relay Service at 711.

Submitted by Lori Ryan


Firefighting in and around the W.R. Grace Vermiculite Mine site

The Forest Service is responsible for firefighting protection in and around the W.R. Grace vermiculite mine site where there is known asbestos contamination in the soil, duff and tree bark. Multiple agencies, including Lincoln County, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Montana Department of Environmental Quality, Montana Department of Natural Resources and the US Forest Service, have collaborated to develop the Libby Asbestos Response Plan (LARP). The LARP includes a plan for a unified source of public information for residents and air monitoring during a wildfire within or near the mine site to assist the Health Officer in making public health recommendations. Additional efforts between the Forest Service, EPA and W.R. Grace to perform vegetation management within and around the mine site are underway. Strategically reducing vegetation in this area will help increase firefighting success and reduce the time a firefighter spends in the area.

When asbestos contaminated duff and tree bark burn, the asbestos concentrates in the ash. Asbestos fibers are typically not inherently hazardous unless they are released into air where they can be inhaled. Given that firefighting is an inherently dusty activity, the Forest Service is taking extra measures to ensure employee health and safety by requiring respirator use in the area.

Using a respirator during wildfire firefighting isn’t normal procedure and a limited number of firefighters are trained and equipped to do this work. Personnel that are trained are also dedicated to fighting fire in this area in an effort to provide adequate response to fire starts. In addition, the Forest Service prioritizes the use of aircraft and heavy equipment to help improve initial attack success. Should a fire escape initial attack, efforts will focus on values at risk. Firefighting tactics will be based on the values at risk on an incident by incident basis.

In addition to respirator use, working in this area requires decontamination of personnel, heavy equipment and vehicles during fire events. This includes firefighters’ packs, chainsaws, and clothing, basically any ground resource that enters the area during a fire.  Decontamination is important to reduce cross-contamination and potential asbestos exposure to firefighters. These additional measures, wearing a respirator and going through the decontamination process, reduces the time a firefighter spends on the fire.

The Forest Service is working with employee health and safety experts such as the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) to perform employee personal air monitoring during burning events. Gathering this information will help the Forest Service determine what measures are needed for employee health and safety while working in an area with asbestos contamination.

In conclusion, firefighting in and around the W.R. Grace Vermiculite mine will look different than normal firefighting for a number of reasons. There will be heavy use of aircraft and equipment when conditions allow and resources are available. There will be a limited number of firefighters on the ground and, before leaving the fire area, people and equipment will go through a decontamination process. Wearing respirators and performing decontamination during wildland firefighting restricts the time a firefighter can spend on a fire. The Forest Service will fight fire aggressively while providing for the safety and well-being of the public and responders.

For more information on firefighting in the W.R. Grace Mine site, please contact Environmental Engineer Pamela Baltz at 406-293-6211.

Submitted by Willie Sykes




departmental grant program brings

equipment to laboratory


The Cabinet Peaks Medical Center Foundation began the Departmental Grant Program in 2017 with a goal of helping medical center departments purchase items that directly impact patient care and employee satisfaction.  These items must be less than $5,000 each and must not by in the department’s current operating budget in order to be considered for the grant.

“The Foundation is pleased to be able to frequently provide equipment, on a smaller scale, that will help medical center patients and employees in ALL departments across the facility,” stated Kate Stephens, Executive Director of the Foundation.  “Often the community only hears about the Foundation’s big projects and the work we do to raise money for very expensive items within the medical center.  The departmental grant program, which is funded by the Foundation’s Mission Fund, has been a wonderful way for us to continue giving back to individual departments, and to reach more employees and more community members than ever before.”

Most recently, the program has purchased a CO2 Microbiology Incubator for the Laboratory Department.

According to Roger Riddle, Laboratory Manager, this technology has never been used at CPMC and is an advanced environment which allows the quicker and more efficient recovery of organisms that may infect humans.

“This equipment will allow us to be more thorough and complete with the information given to our providers to better treat our patients,” stated Riddle.  “This equipment gives a better recovery rate and shorter recovery time of all the human pathogens that require an increased CO2 environment to grow to the proper level of detection and identification.”

The Foundation reviews departmental grant applications on an on-going basis throughout the year.  “We are proud to be able to help more patients receive quality care, and more employees provide compassionate care with this new program, and cant’ wait to see how we can help again in the near future,” added Stephens.

If you have any questions about the Foundation, or how you can contribute to this cause, or other Foundation campaigns, please contact Kate Stephens at kstep@cabinetpeaks.org or 283-7140.

Submitted by Kate Stephens