Road trip to the Vermont Asbestos Group Mine
It had been many years since the last time I came anywhere near the Vermont Asbestos Group mine on the Lowell and Eden line, on the outskirts of Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom.
As a matter of fact, the last time I visited the mine was back in the 1990’s, during my employment with UPS. The mine was fully operational, and I delivered a next day air package to the mine’s office.
I remember how strange and out worldly the place looked even back then.
It was a hive of activity, dust and noise and back then, I never had a clue about the high levels of toxicity inherent within the many asbestos mounds. It was simply another hectic day as a UPS driver – one hell of a long diversion off my normal route.
Honestly, I don’t know what prompted me to revisit the place on a cool weekend in March 2016, other than it being “something to do” on my way back from visiting friends and family in Newport.
I have a lot of memories about the years I grew up in the Northeast Kingdom. Towns like Lowell, Westfield and Troy were actually quite vibrant with activity, due to employment provided by places like the Vermont Asbestos Group and the cheese factory in nearby Troy. With the somewhat mysterious Space Research Corporation in full operation in Jay, the entire area was thriving and busy at least during the late 1970’s.
Formerly thriving nearby towns lost to time
Unfortunately, most of the towns have now lost all of their major employers. Sadly, Lowell, VT is not the vibrant place it used to be in the 1970’s. Some of the restaurants and dance halls, etc. are long gone or decaying into obscurity. Just like the toxic asbestos mine and it’s mountains of by products. It’s sad to see once vibrant communities teeming with family farms, nearly reduced to “ghost town” status.
Scenes like the ones at Vermont Asbestos Group mine are a haunting reality check of just how rapidly things can change.
Getting back to the drive to the mine site. It was a cool Spring day and not very windy, so there wasn’t much concern about breathing in dust from the mine. I could only wonder about the homes situated nearby and how the asbestos residue in both the air and the water could be impacting the lives of homeowners in the area. The mountains of asbestos waste were massive to say the least.
The entire place looked like the surface of the moon or some alien planet.
My friend Chad of Obscure Vermont, declares that this is one of his favorite places to visit and I can see why. Though he is much more adventurous than I and truly goes “where no man has gone before”, I know he’s chomping at the bit to get full access to the mine.
The quarries are still there and from what I’ve read, there is not much plant or animal life existing on the mine site at all. I would doubt than any form of fish or amphibians live in the water filled quarries, tainted with asbestos, at the base of the huge mounds.
The road leading to Vermont Asbestos Group mine site is also much rougher than I remember it being.
With 300 people no longer employed, it’s doubtful that road maintenance to the mine site is as important as it once was. On the March day in 2016 when I visited, only one car passed by. At the former main entrance to the mine, there was a small house which I believe the caretaker lives at, urging unwanted visitors away from trespassing onto the posted mine property. I couldn’t help but wonder why he would choose to live so close to the hazardous mine, where a cool summer breeze could very well be unfit for human health.
So concludes my odd little visit to the Vermont Asbestos Group mine. The first since the 1990’s and probably the last. For more information and photos about the mine site, check out this web page by Clay Point Associates, Inc.
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