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Operator of Massive Asbestos Mine Must Pay EPA More Than $3.3 Million

What happens when a massive asbestos mine shuts down for good? The unused asbestos is left on the side of a mountain, right? Wrong. But this is exactly what happened when Vermont Asbestos Group was forced to shut down its Eden-Lowell, VT mine back in 1993. According to Morrisville, Vermont’s News & Citizen, “a century of operation left a scar on the side of Belvidere Mountain that can be seen for miles — a gray mound on the otherwise vegetation-covered slope.”

Though the state government tried for years to deal with the hazards of “huge piles of asbestos tailings” that could be carried to nearby watersheds in water runoff, it looks like the end of the battle is finally here. A settlement has been reached with the Group for $3,360,082.60 to be paid to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), $174,620 to the state for its costs, and $50,000 cash over the next decade to cover existing erosion mitigation measures and security for the mine. Several years after the settlement was reached, the Group now has plans to “pack up the materials and truck asbestos nearly 100 miles to Groveton, NH — a plan the EPA is on board with.”

There’s just one problem: the settlement agreement prohibits movement of tailings offsite, the generation of dust, and the spread of asbestos outside the area. Another issue is the production facility where the tailings would be processed hasn’t even been built yet. Howard Manosh, owner of Vermont Asbestos Group, doubts a processing plant will be constructed until at least 2020. In the meantime, tentative plans to move the asbestos include extracting about 75,000 cubic yards per year of the 25 million to 50 million yards — 30 million tons —of asbestos tailings and transport them to Groveton. Once at the new site, the material will be through an energy-intensive process to convert it into chemicals for use in manufacturing, specifically magnesium oxide and hydroxides.

Per News & Citizen, the removal process will happen via “a single daily shift of eight to 10 hours six days per week, sending 15 to 17 trucks per day to Groveton from May through November until all the material has been removed.” The asbestos tailings “will be wetted 10 to 15 percent to prevent dust during extraction, and once loaded onto each truck, the tailings will not see the light of day again,” as they will be unloaded in a closed facility for processing.

Though all plans are tentative, Manosh is hopeful. After the asbestos have been removed, the mine land can be reclaimed. Manosh thinks the location would be ideal for a solar array—an idea he looked into “a few years ago.” So far, financing has been arranged, and both the state and the EPA have endorsed Manosh’s plans. In addition, “the Lowell Select Board unanimously agreed to sign a letter of support for the mine cleanup on July 25, 2017 and Eden followed suit at a meeting held on August 14, 2017,” reports News & Citizen.

At one time, the Eden-Lowell mine was extremely profitable, employing more than 300 workers, making it one of the largest producers of asbestos in the world. Today, the state of Vermont looks forward to breathing a sigh of relief once all of the unwanted asbestos is gone and the mine has been repurposed for the greater good.

If you have been exposed to asbestos, see your doctor right away. Asbestos is the only known cause of an aggressive cancer known as mesothelioma. Though there is no cure for the disease, early detection could increase treatment options and improve outcomes.

 

Sources

Collier, Kayla. "30 Million Tons of Asbestos Leftovers: Cleanup Plan for Eden-Lowell Mine: 15 Truckloads per Day to N.H. Plant." News & Citizen, StoweToday.com. Stowe Reporter, 17 Aug. 2017. Web. 27 Sept. 2017.