Mel & Lerah Parker
For six years, Mel and Lerah Parker planted fruit trees, roses, marigolds and mushrooms on the 21 acres of land that was part of their Libby, Mont., business – Raintree Nursery. They had also built their home there and shared it with visiting children and grandchildren.
But before the Parkers lived there, the land was home to a W.R. Grace screening plant, where asbestos–contaminated ore from a nearby mine had been processed.
The Environmental Protection Agency found that same asbestos-containing ore was littered throughout the Parker’s property, so, in 1999, it began a cleanup of the residence. The Parkers’ house was crushed and the land was torn apart and fenced off as the clean-up crew worked to rid the area of asbestos.
Now, Mel and Lerah have both been told they have asbestos-related diseases.
The Parkers’ gave dramatic testimony on March 3 and 4 indicating they felt W.R. Grace and then-mine manager Alan Stringer knew they were selling deadly soil when the Parkers bought the land. The testimony came earlier than the government had planned as the Parkers were ordered to the stand by Judge Donald Molloy as a resolution to the victim-witness imbroglio of the early days of the trial.
Andrea Peackock describes the Parkers’ experience on the land extensively in her 2003 book, Libby, Montana.