EDEN, Vt. (WCAX) – It looks like a pile of rocks from afar, but the Belvidere Asbestos Mine was once a community staple in the Northeast Kingdom. Our Rachel Mann takes us back in time to Eden to look at the impact the mine had.
The Belvidere Asbestos Mine has operated under many different names and owners since mining attempts started in 1902. It finally got off the ground in the 1930′s and continued operating until 1993.
It closed once people found out the health risks associated with asbestos and there was no longer demand for the product. Although the Department of Health did studies in 2008 and 2009 stating there were no asbestos related deaths connected to the mine.
“It employed 325 people. It would run 7 days a week, 364 days a year. The only day they closed it was Christmas day,” said Howard Manosh, the mine’s last operator and current owner of the Vermont Asbestos Group. He got involved in the late 70′s when workers were looking for better management. “The product? We made the best friction products for brakes, clutches, and stuff like that that you could. Firemen’s suits…different things,” he continued.
Even before Manosh was John Lupien, who moved his family from Canada to work there. He started at the mine in 1972.
“There was a lot of comradery between the men who worked there,” said Chantal Lupien-Binginot, Lupien’s daughter. “They worked really hard.”
Lupien has passed away, but we spoke with his daughter Chantal, and grandson Matt Binginot about his experiences, specifically when the miners bought the mine in the mid-70′s to keep it from closing.
“I think a big part of the history to us was that idea of taking ownership,” his grandson told Channel 3. “They were going to lose the mine.”
“The mines are a legend,” Lupien’s daughter continued. “The people who live in the area still talk about it. It was part of their lives, their parent’s lives, their aunts and uncles.”
Bruce Shields from the Eden Historical Society says the fallout from the closure impacted everything from property values to morale in the community. “The people of Eden had been watching the fate of the superfund site in Corinth and that process was very discouraging,” Shields said.
With residents voting against the designation, the EPA has had minimal involvement. However, the site remains on Vermont’s list of hazardous sites. Vermont’s Department of Environmental Conservation has done work to prevent waste runoff into surrounding wetlands by building diversion channels and sedimentation berm.
“We have not had expansion of the environmental impact from the deposition of asbestos since we put in those measures,” said John Shmeltzer, with the DEC.
Manosh said at one point they tried to start magnesium mining, but safety concerns and state regulations made it too difficult. He added at one point the EPA also looked into placing a solar field there. “They could never get the permits to get it done, but something like that should happen to it,” Manosh said.
For now, he continues to maintain runoff on the site with no future plans for it.
“It’ll always be there. It’ll be there when I’m gone,” Manosh continued.
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