Asbestos Tragedy in Libby, Montana: Seeking Accountability

LIBBY, Mont. – Almost 25 years after federal authorities descended on the small northwestern Montana town of Libby, victims of a devastating asbestos pollution are taking legal action against one of the major corporate players involved: BNSF Railway. The tragedy, which killed hundreds and sickened thousands, has left a scar on this close-knit community near the U.S.-Canada border.

The Toxic Legacy

The town of Libby, with a population of about 3,000, suffered immensely due to asbestos exposure. Residents breathed in toxic dust from vermiculite, a mineral used for insulation, which was shipped by rail from Libby to various locations across the U.S. Hundreds lost their lives, and over 3,000 people fell ill as a result of asbestos-related diseases. The contamination left a lasting mark on the community.

BNSF Railway Under Scrutiny

Texas-based BNSF Railway, owned by Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc., faces accusations of negligence and wrongful death. The company allegedly failed to control clouds of contaminated dust that emanated from its rail yard and settled across Libby’s neighborhoods. The first trial among what attorneys say are hundreds of lawsuits against BNSF for its role in polluting the Libby community is scheduled to begin soon.

Paul Resch’s Story

Paul Resch, who played baseball as a child on a field constructed from asbestos-tainted vermiculite, now battles an asbestos-related disease. His left lung is severely scarred, and there is no cure for this debilitating illness. Resch recalls vermiculite-filled storage bins near the railroad tracks, where clouds of dust would blow around downtown Libby.