“As we learned in our previous segment, there were lots and lots of tailings and ore remnants that were pulled out of (the Elizabeth Mine in South Strafford),” Vermont Historical Society executive director Steve Perkins said. “Ultimately, that caused an environmental issue — and so this whole site has been remediated by the EPA and turned into both a solar site and also an historic site with great interpretation. We’re going to go talk to Steve Willbanks, the president of the Strafford Historical Society.”

“From the copperas (production) particularly — because it was a more primitive extraction method — they released a lot of acids and heavy metals,” Willbanks said. “And (it produced) acid mine drainage. Because you had these tailings in various places and they were piled up quite high, they were full of water as well as this acid mine drainage. It had to go somewhere, so it would ooze out, following this valley down to the Ompompanoosuc River.”

“Steve, you’ve told us you were on the (Strafford) Selectboard during and throughout the remediation process — and a very lengthy one at that,” Mike Hoey said. “So, how did that look? What did it entail?”

“It became a Superfund site officially in (2001 and the cleanup effort began in 2002), but there was quite a bit of study beforehand,” Willbanks said. “There turned out to be a certain amount of opposition. There were referendums at Town Meeting about whether to continue with it or not, and the price tag kept getting (higher) because they discovered it was much more complicated than they had originally thought. (It eventually reached $103 million.)

“Because of the opposition, it enabled the EPA to get further funds to do more analysis of what was going on when they were being challenged on some of their planning. And that actually made for a much better project, because they were able to use funds they would not otherwise be able to access.”

“The Superfund remediation effort only officially concluded very recently,” Hoey noted. “I think it was only within the last year or so.”

“That’s right; about a year ago is when they decided that they had finished,” Willbanks replied. “There were still a few little projects that we were working on, probably until the spring.”

“What I think is fascinating, as director of the Vermont Historical Society, is how the local society here got involved in the project,” Perkins said. “So, it’s not just a cleanup and a solar field.”

“Part of that was, where we’re standing right now is an easement the (Strafford) Historical Society has,” Willbanks observed. “This is the first place the interpretive panels were set up, and we worked sort of hand in hand with the EPA and their researchers. When they needed information, we provided it; they provided us with a lot of things that we wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. We would like to someday have a museum in that change house. That’s the one building that’s still standing over there.”

Hoey asked, “Should anyone come to this wonderful overlook point and like what they see here on the interpretive signage and want to learn more about what happened here at the Elizabeth Mine — and what has continued to happen in very, very recent times — how can they learn it?”

“Well, at present, probably the best way beyond what you see here would be to look at our website,” Willbanks said.