Note from Dan: The author is a resident of Pittsylvania County and a die-hard opponent of efforts in the General Assembly to allow uranium mining outside Chatham.
By Anne Cockrell
This e-mail went out yesterday to the Honorable Legislators of Virginia.
Dear Legislative Aide:
Please give the honorable delegate or senator this article on uranium mining and milling cleanup. Written by a resident of Madison County, Va., it includes the proposed issue of uranium mining and milling for the Commonwealth of Virginia.
From the article:
“. . . a new, state-of-the-art uranium mill would be a vast improvement over previous models. But if a uranium mill managed not to pollute groundwater, it would be the first time . . . Of the 52 mill sites in the U.S. (of which only one, in Blanding, Utah, is currently active), all 52 have led to groundwater contamination.”
Not exactly a ringing endorsement for the uranium milling industry, is it?
When the Virginia General Assembly convenes in January, there is a high probability this issue will be discussed. It would be prudent to look at areas where uranium mining and milling have already occurred and the costs associated with the cleanup afterwards. Was the amount set forth in surety bonds for cleanup enough to accomplish that goal? And, as the article queries, is it possible to restore the landscape to what it was before mining and milling occurred?
It would be prudent to be concerned about the future health, safety and well being of Virginia citizens: This is an industry with an estimated operation period of 30 to 35 years, depending on the price of uranium and, historically, the boon and bust economy associated with it.
It would be prudent to consider the drinking water needs (as well as business and recreational needs) of those people living downstream of the proposed uranium mine and mill site. Virginia Beach draws water from Lake Gaston which supplies over one million Tidewater area residents with their drinking water, as well as the military complex there. I
In North Carolina, seven counties, multiple municipalities and an estimated one million people draw their drinking water from the Roanoke River.
Lastly, considering there were 15,000 acres held under historic uranium mineral lease in the late 1970s and 1980s in several north central Virginia counties (Orange, Fauquier, Culpeper and Madison), are the honorable legislators certain uranium mining and milling would only occur in Southside Virginia?
What could just the exploration process for uranium mean (environmental impacts) for these counties’ drinking water supplies, or the Potomac, Rappahannock, Occoquan, and Rapidan rivers running through or beyond them? The Chesapeake Bay?
Remember that Virginia is home to eight million-plus residents, the legislators’ families and loved ones included. Consider whether risking the state’s annual $55 billion agricultural business is worth the mining and milling of a radioactive, heavy metals-laden element, like uranium.
Is bringing this industry to Virginia worth risking all Virginia has going for it now? Considering this industry’s costly legacy of negative impacts to both human health and natural environment, will the honorable legislators conclude a federal and state regulatory framework will really keep Virginia or its citizens safe?”
If the answer is “yes,” I’d kindly ask for the article to be reread– especially where it discusses the costs of ongoing cleanups in Colorado, Utah and New Mexico.