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Record $250M Payment in Asbestos Case

W.R. Grace & Co. has agreed to pay $250 million to the federal government for investigation and cleanup of asbestos contamination from a vermiculite mining facility in Montana. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) calls the amount the largest in the history of the federal "Superfund" environmental cleanup program (formally known as the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, or CERCLA). The settlement agreement states that vermiculite ore from the Zonolite mine in Lincoln County, Montana contained "amphibole" asbestos, and that vermiculite and asbestos particles have been found in a number of locations in and around the town of Libby, in the northeastern part of the state. According to the Baltimore Sun, more than 1,200 mine workers and local residents became ill or died from asbestos exposure, developing conditions including asbestosis and mesothelioma. Hundreds of other health cases are being monitored. Grace owned and operated the Zonolite mine from 1963 to 1990. A federal criminal action against Grace is ongoing, in which the company and a number of its executives are accused of obstructing government investigation of contamination at the site.