Two Vermont Towns to Decide on Abandoned Asbestos Mine

January 31, 2012

Voters in Lowell and Eden are going to vote on whether to request that an abandoned asbestos mine be declared a federal Superfund hazardous waste site so it can be cleaned up and eventually redeveloped as a biomass power plant.

Officials with the Lamoille Economic Development Corporation said a developer is interested in the site, but the tailings from the mine must be cleaned up first. In the past, officials have said cleaning up the mine could cost more than $200 million.

“Cleaning the mines up will take a long time, probably about 10 years,” said Vermont Electric Cooperative CEO Dave Hallquist, who is working with the Lamoille Corporation. “However, at the end of that time-frame, this location will be ready, and the markets will be ready for local bio-mass to become an important part of our energy picture.”

Last year people in the two towns were asked to support declaring the mine a federal Superfund site, but the Caledonian Record reports that townspeople who attended meetings on the issue last summer were opposed because they feared their property values would go down.

Hallquist said he understood the reluctance of some to agree to label their community a Superfund site, but the community hasn’t heard the arguments for economic development at the site once it is cleaned up.

“We really can see a good proposal for a 6-megawatt plant,” Hallquist said. “It’s a great location. It would have to be cleaned up first.”

Gov. Peter Shumlin and his two predecessors have said they would not ask the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to put the mine on the Superfund list unless there was community support for it.

The asbestos mine, located on 1,500 acres, operated in the two towns for nearly a century, closing in 1993. Meetings on the vote are scheduled for next month.

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