“Modern Mining for [Uranium] Inevitably Pollutes Water.”


    The above quote is from a story produced by the highly-regarded, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalistic organization, ProPublica.  It caught my eye because this is the exact opposite of what we are being told by the lobbyists of Virginia Uranium Inc. and the Republicans snuggled in bed with them — for example, Sen. John Watkins, who recently said: “Uranium mining is done safely around the world, and Virginia is capable of mining it safely, too,” he said.

    Really?  So listen to the story of Christensen Ranch in dry-as-dust Wyoming.  It sounds a lot like the movie Gasland’s story of groundwater contamination from natural gas fracking that has shocked so many:

    As dry as this land may be, underground, vast reservoirs hold billions of gallons of water suitable for drinking […] Yet every day injection wells pump more than 200,000 gallons of toxic and radioactive waste from uranium mining into Christensen’s aquifers.

    It gets worse:  

    The Safe Drinking Water Act forbids injecting industrial waste into or above drinking water aquifers, but the EPA issued what are called aquifer exemptions that gave mine operators at the ranch permission to ignore the law. Over the last three decades, the agency has issued more than 1,500 such exemptions nationwide, allowing energy and mining companies to pollute portions of at least 100 drinking water aquifers.

    And even worse:

    Federal regulators also have become less certain that it is possible to clean up contamination from uranium mining. At Christensen Ranch and elsewhere, efforts to cleanse radioactive pollutants from drinking water aquifers near the surface have failed and uranium and its byproducts have sometimes migrated beyond containment zones, records show.

    But no worries, there aren’t any drinking water supplies that could be affected by proposed uranium mining at the Coles Hill farm in Pittsylvania County, right?  What do you say, Virginia Beach?:

    This area in southwest Virginia is believed to contain a very large untapped deposit of uranium, but the area is also susceptible to heavy rains and flooding.  This raises the possibility of radiation flowing into downstream drinking water supplies, including Lake Gaston, which supplies drinking water to Virginia Beach and, indirectly, Chesapeake and Norfolk, if a catastrophic storm were to breach a tailings disposal cell.

    Yeah, but c’mon, we never have heavy rains in Virginia!  And at least we wouldn’t imperil any other states, right?  Let’s see:

    North Carolina is only about 20 miles from the proposed uranium mine and residents, public officials and lawmakers there worry that a catastrophic release of radioactive waste could poison Kerr Lake, the drinking water source for more than 118,000 North Carolinians, as well as contaminate the fishing- and recreation-rich Roanoke River as far east as Pamlico Sound.

    So the bottom line is that uranium mining “inevitably pollutes water” and Virginia has lots of beautiful rivers and water bodies upon which her population depends.  And the General Assembly is now poised to decide whether to lift the 30-year moratorium on uranium mining in Virginia.


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