Federal and State clean up workers recently began work to reduce asbestos contamination of water at the inactive 2,500 acre Vermont Asbestos Group mine site, located off of Mines Road in the towns of Eden and Lowell, Vermont.
The work is being coordinated between EPA, along with two State of Vermont agencies, the Agency of Natural Resources and the Dept. of Environmental Conservation. The work is expected to be underway until Thanksgiving and may require additional work in the spring.
"Our efforts will take a significant step toward stemming the flow of contaminated mining waste into area watersheds" said EPA New England regional administrator Robert W. Varney. "The work will reduce the mine's adverse ecological impacts and the public's potential exposure to health hazards."
To reduce the off-site migration of asbestos fibers via surface water flow, EPA is undertaking several measures, including: rerouting surface water flow to avoid the tailings piles, channeling contaminated flow to on-site surface water retention areas to allow for deposition of fibers, and reinforcing and/or constructing berms to reduce the off-site movement of tailings.
The State of Vermont and EPA are in discussions with the Vermont Asbestos Group, Inc. (VAG), the current property owner, regarding performance of any required maintenance of the measures put in place by EPA to ensure their continued effectiveness and integrity.
The Vermont Agency of Natural Resources (ANR) began investigating the site in 2004, and the Vermont Dept. of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has conducted biological and chemical assessments of eleven locations within the two affected watersheds as well as additional sediment and water sampling downstream from previous study locations. As part of an effort to establish a national protocol for conducting environmental sampling at mine sites, last summer DEC assisted the US Geological Survey in collecting tailing and water samples.
"I want to commend the EPA and Robert Varney, the regional EPA director. This will bring more than $2 million to Vermont to mitigate offsite migration of asbestos fibers into the wetlands of the state," said Agency of Natural Resources Secretary George Crombie.
VAG was vital to Vermont's economy and was one of the largest asbestos mines in the country. Between the early 1900s and 1993 when production operations ceased, asbestos ore was mined out of three VAG mine locations: Eden Quarry, C-Area, and Lowell Quarry.
The Eden Quarry is at an elevation of about 2,300 feet and has a waste pile estimated at 12 million tons. The pile is being heavily eroded by the beginnings of Hutchins Brook which is carrying substantial quantities of mine tailings into the Lamoille watershed. There is also evidence of unauthorized recreational use in and around the pile. The Lowell Quarry created a waste pile which is estimated to be between 30 and 60 million tons covering 80 acres. This waste pile and the one from C-Area are eroding and have heavily impacted Corez Pond, Burgess Brook, and associated wetlands within the Mississquoi watershed.
At least eight wetlands have been significantly damaged by mining waste leaving the site. Wetland functions including water storage (flood and stormwater), surface and groundwater protection, erosion control, fisheries habitat, wildlife and migratory bird habitat have been severely impacted. An approximately 25-acre wetland about one mile downstream from the Eden Quarry waste pile is in danger of reaching its storage capacity. Should that occur, the Dark Branch could be impacted resulting in yet another water body being adversely effected.
Asbestos is a name given to a group of six different fibrous minerals that occur naturally in the environment. Asbestos is a human carcinogen. The public is urged to stay out of the site to minimize direct exposure to asbestos fibers.
- EPA’s New England Emergency Response and Removals (epa.gov/region1/superfund/er)
- EPA information on asbestos (epa.gov/asbestos/)
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