For nearly a century, reports a story on Vermont Public Radio, workers mined asbestos from Vermont’s Belvidere Mountain, located in remote Lamoille County. While the asbestos mining did not cause great concern during those 100 years, what has raised much controversy is the more than 70 million tons of rock waste the mine left behind when they closed.
Local officials have claimed for years that the asbestos fibers from the waste are washing into the headwaters of the Lamoille and Missisquoi Rivers. Finally, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is doing something about it. The agency recently launched a $2 million project to stabilize the site. A complete clean up, they estimate, would cost $500 million.
“Every site has its unique characteristics but just the volume of material here – it’s pretty overwhelming,” said Gary Lipson, the EPA coordinator on the site.
The EPA has told area officials that eight wetlands suffer from asbestos sediment that runs off the site. “The muddy material smothers the bugs and other organisms that make up the base of the aquatic food chain,” Lipson explains.
Because Belvidere Mountain straddles the divide between the Missisquoi and Lamoille River watersheds, he stresses, the asbestos waste has the potential to wash into two major rivers that flow into Lake Champlain, an issue that has implications much more wide spread than just rural Lamoille County.
Asbestos was first mined at Belvidere Mountain in 1899. Old reports show that in the 1920s, the mine produced almost all the asbestos in the country. It was closed in 1993.