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EPA PROPOSES ABANDONED VERMONT MINE TO SUPERFUND

Release Date: 12/01/2000
Contact Information: Alice Kaufman, EPA Community Affairs Office, 617.918.1064

BOSTON - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today proposed the Elizabeth Mine in South Strafford, Vermont, to the National Priorities List (NPL), commonly known as the Superfund. The Superfund is EPA's list of the country's hazardous waste sites that have been identified for possible long-term cleanup by the federal government. Superfund makes public funds available to clean up toxic waste sites when private financing is unavailable.

"Old mining sites that once were the symbol of America's prosperity, can pose significant ecological risks from rainwater and snow melt leaching materials from the tailing piles into nearby rivers or streams," said Mindy S. Lubber, EPA New England regional administrator. "Strafford citizens have already a played a very important role in getting us to where we are today. We would both hope and expect that the community involvement experienced over the past eight months will be maintained every step of the way."

Earlier this year, local citizens came together and formed the Elizabeth Mine Community Advisory Group (EMCAG). EPA and the Vermont Agency for Natural Resources (VTANR) have worked closely to with the EMCAG to identify potential environmental and or health concerns that should be looked into further as the site is studied. EMCAG also played a critical role in defining the importance of the historical aspects of the Elizabeth Mine. EPA is currently evaluating whether the Elizabeth Mine would be eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. Balancing historic preservation with protection of public health and the environment with be one of the issues that EPA, VTANR, and EMCAG will address.

To date, EPA has sampled surface waters and sediments near the mine including the West Branch Ompompanoosuc River, Copperas Brook, and Lords Brook. Elevated levels of iron, aluminum, manganese, copper, zinc, and nickel have been detected in the waters of Copperas Brook and the West Branch of the Ompompanoosuc. EPA has also sampled several nearby residential water supplies. One of these water supplies was found to contain levels of metals above safe drinking water standards. All of the other wells sampled met primary drinking water standards.

The Elizabeth Mine is an abandoned copper and copperas mine on approximately 1400 acres in rural Vermont. EPA estimates that there are more than 2 million tons of metals and sulfides-rich tailings on 42 acres of the property. As rainwater passes over and through the tailings sulfuric acid is produced and the various metals in the tailings are dissolved. Acidic mine drainage has caused several metals, including iron, aluminum, manganese, copper, zinc, and nickel to be identified in nearby waterways .

"The citizens have helped us to develop an implementation strategy that will provide substantial involvement for the local stakeholders," said Ed Hathaway, EPA's project manager. "I want to personally thank them for all the work and efforts they have put into this project already and I think this bodes well for the future."

The EMCAG, which consists of ten groups, all have agreed unanimously to place the Elizabeth Mine on the NPL for cleanup," said James Condict, chair of the EMCAG. "We look forward to working with the EPA on this project. Hopefully we can solve the problems of poor water quality and any health issues. We especially want to thank the EPA team – Sarah White, Bill Lovely, and Ed Hathaway for their efforts so far."

There is a 60-day public comment period on the listing. Comments must be postmarked on or before the last day of the comment period, January 29, 2001, and sent to EPA:

By postal mail - send original and three copies of comments (no facsimiles or tapes) to Docket Coordinator, Headquarters; US EPA; CERCLA Docket Office; (Mail Code 5201G); 1200 Pennsylvania Ave. NW; Washington DC 20460

By Express Mail or Courier - send original and three copies of comments (no facsimiles or tapes) to Docket Coordinator, Headquarters; US EPA; CERCLA Docket Office; 1235 Jefferson Davis Highway; Crystal Gateway #1; First Floor; Arlington, VA 22202

By E-mail - Comments in ASCII format only may be mailed directly to superfund.docket@epa.gov. E-mailed comments must be followed up by an original and three copies sent by mail or express mail.