Streamline - Summer 2011 - (Page 17)
Uranium Mining: The Latest Economic vs. Environment Issue in Virginia
BY JIMMY NORMAN EPA SOURCE WATER PROTECTION TECHNICIAN
THE DEBATE OVER lifting the statewide ban in Virginia on uranium mining is starting to heat up
once again. The 2012 General Assembly will be considering a proposal by the Virginia Energy Resources Inc. (formerly Virginia Uranium Inc.) to have the ban lifted and allow mining for uranium statewide. Of particular interest is a 200-acre tract of land on the Coles Hill farm area of Pittsylvania County. This particular area has been the primary focus of the debate in Virginia since it was discovered in 1970s. In the past few months, the National Academy of Sciences has been conducting hearings throughout Virginia and other states (Colorado and California) to determine the economic and environmental impact of lifting the ban. One of the most compelling economic factors for proponents is the creation of 325 jobs due to the estimated $10 billion value of just the Coles Hill tract alone. Considering the current economy, and the devastating effect it has had on Southside Virginia and Pittsylvania County in particular, any news of job creation is generally considered good news. Pittsylvania County has been hit hard in recent years, mostly due to tobacco reform (loss of farms and income handed down for generations) and manufacturing, due to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Thus it can be easy to overlook the many environmental impacts that such mining will have on the area. Also, the industry argues that today’s technology and methods provide proper safeguards that greatly reduce mining’s environmental impacts. Opponents of the mining seem to have the advantage due to a very strong campaign from numerous municipalities and organizational lobbying efforts. Another key factor will be an immense amount of historical data that is available to prove the facts being presented and debated currently. Perhaps the most compelling of these is the impact the mining could have on ground water and surface water drinking supplies. Virginia Beach and the Hampton Roads Area have an estimated one million residents who rely on water being piped from Lake Gaston, which is recharged by the watersheds around this location. Having worked closely with health department officials as a private soil consultant in Pittsylvania County, I have first-hand knowledge of the soils and drilled wells as they relate to on-site septic systems and private wells. Pittsylvania is a very large county and relies heavily on private wells for residential drinking supplies for most of its area. This factor must be given serious consideration in the overall debate. This debate should take place in a public forum—not behind closed doors in Richmond as many fear. Both sides on this issue have compelling arguments and facts to persuade the public and our elected officials. The one most compelling issue I see when I am out and about doing water source protection plans for localities in Virginia is the high risk of potential contaminant sources already present that are not being properly documented and monitored. If there cannot be agreement on the facts of this issue, hopefully there at least can be agreement that water protection is absolutely necessary. If it cannot be assured, then perhaps the issue is already settled. In December this year, the final report by the National Academy of Science is due. Many elected officials are awaiting this report before deciding which side of the matter to support. Gov. Bob McDonnell is also taking this position. I would encourage the many who are decidedly against lifting the ban to have a plan in place to address maximizing source water protection in their communities. Although the focus here has been on Pittsylvania County, it should be noted that there are several counties throughout Virginia that have uranium deposits that potentially could be mined. I would encourage all Virginians to be aware of this issue and seek to educate themselves before deciding which side to support.
Opponents of the mining seem to have the advantage due to a very strong campaign from numerous municipalities and organizational lobbying efforts.
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Streamline - Summer 2011
From the President
From the Executive Director
The Water Tastes Good in Western Virginia
Virginia WARN, Help in an Emergency
Proper Disposal of Pharmacy Products
VELAP: Where Are We Now?
Why Did the Paramecium Cross the Road?
Anger in the Work Place: What It Really Costs You
Litigation and Water Wars
Hydrant Flow Testing–Data You Need
What A Ride!
Conference 2011 Highlights
Throwing My Loop
Do You Know What Your VRWA Benefits Are?
New VRWA Benefit
Welcoming New Members
Board Of Directors
Index To Advertisers/ Ad.Com
Streamline - Summer 2011