Virginia, the site of many great historical battles, is in the opening stages of another — this time, not over independence, or slavery, or freedom from discrimination, but freedom from radioactivity,and all the horrors that go with it.
A Canadian company is trying to overturn a 30-year-old ban on uranium mining in the state of Virginia, despite the fact that pretty much all commercial uranium mining in the US to date has been done in arid, lightly populated Western states. Mining uranium in Virginia would make us the guinea pigs in an experiment to see what happens when you unearth millions of pounds of radioactive material, and dispose of the resulting waste, in a wet climate, surrounded by waterways and densely populated areas.
In the West and elsewhere in the world where uranium has been mined, according to the Virginia Conservation Network, problems have included “contamination of ground and surface water; millions of tons of radioactive mining waste; and increased birth defeats, leukemia, and childhood cancer for the surrounding public.” In order to prevent such curses from being visited on Virginia, a new broad-based coalition has come together called Keep the Ban.
The coalition has already attracted the support of 41 localities and organizations from across the state (and including some of our North Carolina neighbors). And no wonder – according to the new Virginians Against Uranium blog, although the first major site being targeted by the uranium mining industry is in Pittsylvania County, it has also secured leases at sites of potential deposits in Culpeper, Fauquier, Floyd, Henry, Madison, Orange, and Patrick counties, while additional potential sites of uranium deposits have been detected in Franklin and Nelson counties.
Per the same blog,
Virginia Beach, which gets its drinking water from Lake Gaston, downstream of the Coles Hill site, recently released the findings of its $437,000 study which concluded that a catastrophic failure of a uranium waste containment structure at the site could contaminate the city’s drinking water for as long as two years. Roughly 1.2 million people in Virginia and North Carolina rely on the Roanoke River system downstream of the Coles Hill site for drinking water.
Oops. Sorry about that, dude.
Needless to say, industry mavens are busy spreading their lobbying dollars around the state like drunken sailors – over $55,000 to date per the Daily Press. They’ve even flown three Virginia lawmakers to France, to tour company sites and perhaps have a little boondoggle fun.
We may not have the same money to spread around, but don’t underestimate the power of concerned, informed and frankly pissed-off citizens. A petition is now being circulated to keep the ban. Please add your name here.
And please find out more by attending one of the Virginia Conservation Networks workshops on the issue, coming up at:
•June 14 – Richmond (Downtown U of R Campus)
•June 21 – Charlottesville (Community Design Center – City Space)
•June 23 – Virginia Beach (Croc’s Eco-Bistro)
•June 30 – Arlington (Central Library Auditorium)
•July 19 – Roanoke (Higher Education Center Room #408)
•July 21 – Harrisonburg (Clementine’s Café Lounge)
Too often, progressives join battles after they’ve already been lost. This time, we may be early enough to have a chance to counter the industry lobbyists and all their money. But don’t wait – get involved today to keep Virginia free of radioactive contamination.