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About 30 million tons of asbestos have been left on the side of Belvidere Mountain by the Vermont Asbestos Group after it shut down in 1993. At one point, the mine employed 320 workers as one of the largest producers in the world.
The mine was extremely profitable as the mineral was used in construction products, brake pads, and roadways. Then the effects of asbestos exposure became well-known and the market tanked.
Although the asbestos market isn’t booming anymore, it’s still actively used in some industries. Some countries rely heavily on the import and export of the material and it’s still being used in approximately 70% of the world.
Vermont Asbestos Group’s owner Howard Manosh settled with a 10-year-payout of $50,000 in cash to cleanup the 1,550-acre site, $3,360,082.60 to the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and $174,620 to the state.
The state government has been concerned for years as the piles of asbestos could affect two nearby watersheds. In fact, Vermont was the home of America’s first commercial asbestos mines. The Green Mountains contain an abundance of serpentine, which is the source of “white” chrysotile asbestos.
The EPA stepped in from 2007-2008 to help contain the mine’s asbestos by building waterbars, diversion trenches, berms, and culverts. In 2013, the EPA returned to deal with a storage building filled with dry asbestos ore.
Manosh wants to transport the hazardous waste about 100 miles away to Groveton, NH. The plan is to move 75,000 cubic yards annually to NH where the asbestos goes through an energy-intensive process that turns it into chemicals for manufacturing. A single, daily eight to 10-hour shift six days a week could get the job done from May to November.
“This project is not a done deal,” said Manosh. “Groveton doesn’t have a plant yet. I still need permission to move material offsite. These things take time.”
Technically, the settlement doesn’t allow Manosh to move the asbestos due to dust and spreading it to outside areas. The abatement plan would call for the asbestos to be wetted to prevent dust during extraction. However, the NH facility might not happen until 2020.
“Groveton was built largely around a big paper mill, which has gone out of business. The town needs jobs, so they are welcoming [the asbestos processing plant] with open arms,” said Manosh.
The state of Vermont, EPA, Lowell Select Board, and Eden are onboard with the plan. Manosh hopes to build a solar array when all the work is completed.
Image: Joseph Bylund on flickr