Former rail worker wins compensation for asbestos exposure
Les Skramstad, a Libby, Montana resident and former mine worker who focussed attention on asbestos problem has been diagnosed with mesothelioma.
Skramstad has long been an advocate for those who have become sick or died from exposure to asbestos. He has worked for W.R. Grace-owned Zonolite from 1959 until 1962.
Les - whose wife and two oldest children suffer from asbestosis - was one of the first to bring the plight of hundreds of Libbyans to the attention of local and state officials.Â In the beginning most didn't listen to him. Later EPA came to town and confirmed that the entire town was coated with dangerous asbestos particles of the tremolite type. These are more hazardous than the more common chrysotile variety.
Skramstad began working at age 23. "There was an incredible amount of dust, a very unique dust," Skramstad said. "It stuck to everything. It would stand right up on the guy wires; it would cling to whatever it touched. I don't have an explanation, but my job was to sweep it up, on all seven floors of the mill site."
After sweeping the floor he loaded the dust into wheelbarrows and shoveled it onto a 200-foot-long conveyor belt, which carried the dust away, and deposited it at the base of a mountain near the mine. "I quit on account of the dust, not that I knew it was harmful to me," he said. "But my wife, Norita, she couldn't keep up with the cleanup."
The EPA confirms that the Zonolite plant dumped approximately 5,000 pounds of tremolite asbestos on the town each day that the mill was in operation.
Les Skramstad was diagnosed with asbestosis in 1996 and similar diagnoses followed for family members as well. It's then he "decided to sound the bell," as he says.
Most recently, he's attracted the attention of Senator Max Baucus, who has become the champion of Libby's mesothelioma victims.