Mining of chrysotile asbestos began at the Vermont Asbestos Group (VAG) Mine on the side of Mount Belvidere in Eden, Vermont in the late 1800’s and after numerous owners and operators, the gates were closed in 1993. Due to two large and steep tailings piles, extreme weather events, and numerous pathways leading off-site, the tailings and sediment began impacting the surrounding area and two distinct watersheds. During the Summer and Fall of 2007 and the Spring of 2008, EPA conducted a fund-lead, time critical Removal Action at this site. Actions included the construction of water-bars, diversion trenches, berms, and culverts to keep contaminated runoff from reaching the off-site water bodies.
Along with the tailings piles and other mine features, there are a number of on-site buildings that were not part of the prior removal action. One of these former storage structures was originally thought to contain approximately 18,000 cubic yards of crushed dry ore is beginning to fail and is threatening to release the contents to the environment. When the mine was operating, this dry ore that went through a series of crushers and then dried, would have been transported from this storage building via a conveyer belt to an adjacent building where the fibers would be separated from the ore and sorted according to size and intended usage. Samples collected from this material to date range between 10 and 45% asbestos concentration. The aluminum roof of the storage building is beginning to peel and is exposing the contents to precipitation. Prior to this second removal action, it was believed that the dry ore was absorbing the moisture, swelling, and beginning to stress the building structure as evidenced by the cracking/separating of the transite siding which serves as the building shell. Planned activities included limited and controlled demolition of the structure while safely moving the product and building debris to a secure on-site location.
In a letter dated July 2, 2013 to the Acting Chief of the US EPA Emergency Planning and Response Branch, the Director of the VT Department of Environmental Conservation Waste Management and Prevention Division requested US EPA assistance: “This letter is to formally request EPA Removal assistance to address a deteriorating onsite storage building filled with dry asbestos ‘ore’.”
After visiting the site with DEC representatives and documenting site conditions, an Action Memorandum was prepared by the On-Scene Coordinator. On July 29, 2013, the memo was signed by the US EPA Region 1 Director of the Regional Office of Site Remediation and Restoration.
EPA began to mobilize their cleanup contractor the week of September 16, 2013. Preliminary activities include placement of work and storage trailers, a decontamination line set-up, and shoring up of the work area around the storage building.
Once decontamination procedures were established, the building was accessed to determine the true volume of ore to be removed. In addition, the interior support system of the building was inspected to assist in determining if demolition of the building was necessary in order to recover and transport the available ore to a secure location outside of the structure. Upon examination, the volume of ore to be removed was less than originally thought. It was clear that a portion of the ore had been moved via the hopper and conveyer belt system into the adjacent building for sorting and packaging prior to the mine closure in 1993. Due in part to the smaller volume of material and the large interior space of the structure, there was no need for demolition of the building. Approximately 1,300 yd3 of ore was removed from the building and the remainder capped in place with gravel/stone collected from on-site sources. The building was then boarded up to prevent future access.
An additional 500 yd3 of the dry ore was scraped from under nearby conveyer belts, so a total of 1,800 yd3 was placed into a previously excavated adjacent location and covered in a way to prevent erosion and off-site migration.
The last piece of heavy equipment was demobilized from the site on October 22, 2013.