NO. R-205.  JOINT RESOLUTION urging Congress to appropriate funds for the implementation of the planned federal Superfund cleanup of the Elizabeth Mine in South Strafford.

(J.R.H.23)

Offered by:  Representatives Seibert of Norwich, Masland of Thetford, Darrow of Dummerston, Deen of Westminster, Obuchowski of Rockingham and Partridge of Windham.

Whereas, the Elizabeth Mine in South Strafford is one of the state’s oldest mines, having been first opened in the early 1800s, and

Whereas, this copper mine was a major employer in the town of Strafford during much of the 19th century and was reopened during the 1940s to provide copper for military needs during World War II before closing permanently in 1958, and

Whereas, when the mine was shuttered, more than 30 acres of copper mining tailings were left, and

Whereas, in June 2001, recognizing the increasingly dangerous conditions at the Elizabeth Mine, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) placed the mine on the federal Superfund list qualifying it for a federally‑financed cleanup, the only funding option as the mine’s owners are no longer alive and there are neither personal descendants nor a surviving corporation to assume the costs, and

Whereas, while the EPA has approved a $16 million cleanup plan, the mine has yet to receive funding as the Superfund’s trust fund is nearly depleted since a tax on polluters, its original source of funds, was terminated in 1995, and the EPA has been funding Superfund sites deemed even greater dangers to public health and safety than the Elizabeth Mine, and

Whereas, U.S. Senators Leahy and Jeffords valiantly tried, without success, to have the tax restored but failed by a Senate vote of 56-43, and

Whereas, the failure to fund the Elizabeth Mine site was despite warnings from regional EPA officials that it posed a serious public safety risk to the area, and

Whereas, there is now serious worry that if the waste pile at the Elizabeth Mine were to collapse, a definite possibility, it would trigger a toxic tidal wave traveling at a speed of 10 to 15 feet per second, threatening the lives and property of anyone living downstream, and

Whereas, of particular concern are 11 homes in the town of Thetford on Vermont Route 132 between Miller Pond Road and the Rice Mills area, and

Whereas, the short-term stabilization program now being implemented will cost approximately $200,000.00, and

Whereas, it is imperative that the Superfund cleanup of the Elizabeth Mine, including the permanent dismantling of its toxic waste pile, be commenced at the earliest possible moment, and

Whereas, this can only occur if federal funds are allocated to the project, now therefore be it

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives:

That the General Assembly urgently urges the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to place the Elizabeth Mine in South Strafford at the top of the Superfund list, and be it further

Resolved:  That the Secretary of State be directed to send a copy of this resolution to EPA Administrator Christie Todd Whitman in Washington, D.C., to the members of the Vermont Congressional Delegation, and to Secretary of the Agency of Natural Resources Elizabeth McLain.