In the Vermont towns of Eden and Lowell, chrysotile asbestos was mined from the early 1900s until 1993. The asbestos was mined from the Belvidere Mountains, which contain huge natural deposits of the mineral. The Vermont Asbestos Group Mine is now inactive, though the site comprises 1540 acres and still consists of a network of mine and mill buildings and two mill tailing piles containing 29-30 million tons of waste. In 2007 the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources (ANR) and EPA inspected the site to determine erosion hazards and possible solutions. Asbestos is a known human carcinogen, and is most devastating in the human body when it is inhaled. This danger is heightened by the mineral’s ability to travel long distances suspended in air before settling. Asbestos is odorless, tasteless, and invisible to the naked eye, so exposure is not always evident.
Lung cancer attorneys warn the residents of Eden and Lowell of the risks of asbestos exposure. More than 3,000 Americans die every year from mesothelioma, a cancer almost exclusively attributed to inhaling asbestos. Scientists and medical researchers affirm that no amount of asbestos is safe in the human body, so routine check-ups are imperative.
The ANR has been investigating this property due to significant erosion of the asbestos waste piles migrating offsite into nearly streams and wetlands. In 2005-2007, the ANR conducted biological and chemical assessments within the Lamoille River and Missisquoi River watersheds which revealed impairment to the aquatic life and water quality. This impairment includes a wetland located one mile downstream. This impairment is a violation of the Vermont Water Quality Standards and the Federal Clean Water Act.
In Oct. 2007, EPA mobilized to the Vermont Asbestos Group mine site to begin a time critical removal action (construction of diversion trenches, berms, and sedimentation basins to keep the contaminated runoff from the tailing piles from reaching the tributaries and brooks). In June 2008, EPA re-mobilized to the site to continue efforts to keep asbestos-laden runoff water from leaving the property.
Actions included inspection of features completed the previous fall and reworking a number of areas to be able to accept additional flow and sediment, which was necessary due to extremely heavy precipitation and ensuing runoff. New berms and trenches were constructed around the mine’s original tailings pile. These structures were designed to carry runoff beyond the pile and reconnect to Hutchins Brook, maintaining the hydrologic flow to down-gradient wetlands. EPA performed a preliminary assessment/site inspection (PA/SI) to evaluate the site for potential listing on the Superfund National Priorities List (NPL).
In the meantime, the State of Vermont is collaborating with federal agencies to evaluate current risks to the communities and recommends that the public access is restricted from the site. Governor Shumlin has made it clear that he will not give his support – a necessary step in any superfund process – until the community supports it. The listing will allow EPA to access federal superfund dollars to help with cleaning up and stabilizing the site. These costs will be well beyond the financial capacity of the state. The superfund approach will benefit the community from decreased exposure to contaminants, a healthier environment, and increased economic opportunity.
Based on preliminary estimates developed in support of the state and federal bankruptcy claims against G-1 Holdings (successor to GAF), costs for a long-term remedy ranged between approximately $135M to $207M. Although there are uncertainties and limitations inherit with all cost estimates this early in the process, these estimates do provide insight into the scale of the potential remedy. All the remedy options accounted for the need to stabilize the piles by reducing and vegetating the slopes.
Asbestos exposure attorneys at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm urge members of the community to support the remedial program under the Superfund. Delaying action could potentially mean damage to your family’s health. If you suspect development of any illness from the asbestos waste piles, contact one of our attorneys immediately for a free legal consultation.