Frongillo forges ahead
Defense attorney Thomas Frongillo continued his cross examination of Dr. Aubrey Miller on Thursday morning, trying to establish just how much the government knew about the dangers of asbestos exposure in Libby, Mont. Using passages from Andrew Schneider’s book, “An Air That Kills,” Frongillo questioned Miller on his knowledge of several government reports published in the early ’80s and presented to the EPA team that investigated Libby. Frongillo maintained that these reports prove that the highest levels of the EPA were aware of the dangers present in Libby.Referring to a report from June 5, 1980, Frongillo clarified just how much he believes the government knew.
“We have a report here … saying A, [asbestos] is friable and B, you can get sick if you handle this stuff,” he said. Frongillo represents defendant Robert Bettacchi, a former senior vice president of WR Grace and Co.
Miller disputed Frongillo’s point, saying that the reports from facilities such as O.M. Scott, where Grace’s vermiculite was shipped, were different from the conditions in Libby. Miller said that although the EPA team received many such reports from government archives, the issue in Libby dealt with high exposure levels from relatively low concentrations of asbestos, something that had not previously been investigated. Miller admitted that the government was active in Libby, but said such studies did not inform him on the health risk to workers and residents.
“[The studies] certainly showed that there was a lot of government interest in this site,” he said. “If we knew what Grace knew from their studies we would have done more.”
Frongillo appeared impatient several times during the cross examination, cutting Miller’s answers short and instructing the doctor to refrain from further explanation. After establishing that Miller read these documents in 2000, Frongillo tried to show the jury that the collection of reports built on knowledge from the late ’70s when the EPA began looking into asbestos exposure at the O.M. Scott plant in Marysville, Ohio.
“What we’ve got here is a connecting link between these three reports,” he said. “ I just want to make it very clear that the series of reports goes back to O.M. Scott in 1978.”
–Kyle Lehman (posted 11:03 a.m.)