After an overwhelming vote by local residents, the old Vermont Asbestos Group Mine will not carry the designation of Superfund site.
Residents of Lowell and Eden, two Vermont cities located by near the former asbestos mine, clearly rejected the idea of having the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) execute a widespread cleaning initiative of the mine and surrounding areas.
A vote was held in two town hall meetings in which residents dismissed the need for a Superfund designation.
Attaining Superfund status for the mine would allow the government to allocate special funding and resources to have the site cleaned up, with some estimates as high as $250 million. But because asbestos fibers are linked to cancers like mesothelioma and lung cancer, concerned parties prefer a better-safe-than-sorry perspective.
Residents expressed opinions to the contrary.
A Vote Against Superfund Status
In Lowell, the vote was 103 to 38 against the Superfund designation. In Eden, the disparity was even larger with 3 yes votes and 106 votes against it.
The former mine, which sits at the top of the Belvidere Mountain between the two cities, has been a point of discussion for some time, with strong opinions from both sides.
Voters were scared that the designation would cause more harm than good.
Alden Warner was the town moderator in Lowell and sorted many of the questions from residents about the issue. He said the questions revolved around the size of the site that that the Superfund would be designated for.
“They were concerned about the fact that once the EPA got in here, where do they stop?” Warner asked.
Previous accounts from before the town hall vote indicated a similar sentiment. The concerns focused on the disruption and inconvenience that would be caused by a presence of EPA and construction crews, including traffic problems.
Some residents believe the danger from the asbestos mine is overstated. Tremendous skepticism exists over Health Department reports that were published and subsequently retracted, with the belief that research was flawed.
Asbestos becomes dangerous when their fibers are disturbed, causing them to become airborne and inhaled. These asbestos fibers can remain in the human body for decades, undetected, until cancer begins forming.
Despite the potential hazards, citizens of Lowell and Eden want things to remain just as they are.
Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin, as expected, sides with the majority of voters.
“I think we should let sleeping dogs lie on that one and I think that by continuing our mitigation efforts all will be well in Lowell and Eden.”
The governor continued by stating that he will continue to monitor the former mine, but doesn’t believe that it poses a hazard to public health.
Another mine that has received the Superfund designation includes the Libby Mine, in Montana, where much of the country’s asbestos-containing vermiculite can be traced to.
Asbestos exposure from Libby was blamed for the death of over 400 nearby residents or former workers, in addition to the illnesses of thousands more.
Lowell and Eden’s residents don’t see envision their future mirroring the events of Libby.