WASHINGTON (CN) – W.R. Grace & Co., a chemical giant driven into bankruptcy by asbestos claims, has agreed to pay the U.S. government $250 million to clean up the environment around its vermiculite mines in Libby, Mont., the Justice Department and the EPA announced Tuesday. It’s the largest payment ever ordered under the Superfund program.
Grace still faces criminal charges in Montana over its alleged poisoning of Libby.
A federal judge must approve the $250 million deal. The state criminal charges stem from more than 1,200 illnesses, and some deaths, in the small town of Libby. In 2003, a federal judge in Montana ordered Grace to pay the EPA $54 million, but the company has not paid it, having filed for bankruptcy in 2001.
Libby’s vermiculite mines, which it worked from 1963 to 1990, have high levels of asbestos. Inhaled, the mineral can cause lung cancer, the fatal tumor mesothelioma, and lung injuries.