Former Owner of Largest U.S. Asbestos Mine Agrees to Address Contamination
As part of a multi-site settlement, G-I Holdings Inc. has agreed to address asbestos contamination caused by its past operation of the largest chrysotile asbestos mine and mill in the country, the U.S. Department of Justice and the state of Vermont announced. The 1,673-acre abandoned mine site in Vermont, known as the Vermont Asbestos Group Mine Site (VAG Site) is the most significant of the contaminated sites covered by the settlement, which includes 12 other industrial sites across the country where G-I may have disposed of hazardous waste.
Chrysotile or white asbestos is the most commonly encountered form of asbestos, accounting for approximately 95 percent of the asbestos in place in the United States and a similar proportion in other countries.
According to a federal complaint filed in New Jersey, the VAG Site has two towering piles of asbestos-containing mine and mill tailings, which are eroding offsite and adversely affecting downstream surface waters and wetlands. These piles also attract hikers, rock collectors, and ATV enthusiasts. In the complaint, the United States alleged that these activities may cause exposure to airborne asbestos by those who access the site.
Under the settlement, G-I will take immediate steps at the VAG Site by constructing fencing, gates, and road barriers to restrict public access; providing onsite surveillance and securing the mill buildings. The company also will monitor air emissions from the piles; conduct dust suppression, if necessary, and provide support to EPA and Vermont for future sampling and monitoring. These tasks will take place over eight years, at a cost of up to $7.75 million. The need for dust suppression will depend on the air monitoring results. G-I also will reimburse the federal and state governments for past and future cleanup costs at the VAG Site and related off-site contamination. G-I, now in Chapter 11 bankruptcy, will reimburse a portion of EPA and Vermont's cleanup costs up to 8.6 percent of $300 million. Finally, G-I will pay $850,000 for damages to local wetlands and waterways contaminated by the site.
Also, as part of the settlement, G-I will contribute $104,615 as its share of cleanup costs to resolve federal claims at nine other superfund sites where its predecessors disposed of hazardous waste. In addition, under the decree, the federal government will have up to 10 years to bring claims for cleanup costs and damages to natural resources at three related heavily contaminated sites in or near Linden, N.J. Under the consent decree, the Linden claims will pass through the bankruptcy and not be discharged, but will eventually be paid at the bankruptcy rate of 8.6 percent on the dollar if G-I is found liable for the contamination.
"The cornerstone of this settlement is that G-I is responsible for completing extensive work at the Vermont Asbestos Group Mine Site, focusing on site security, air monitoring, and investigating and sampling certain mine tailings," said John C. Cruden, Acting Assistant Attorney General for DOJ's Environment and Natural Resources Division. "G-I will also pay for its share of cleanup costs for this site and nine other contaminated sites around the country."
The consent decree, lodged July 2 in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of New Jersey, is subject to a 30-day public comment period and approval by the federal court. A copy of the consent decree is available on the DOJ Web site at www.usdoj.gov/enrd/Consent_Decrees.html.