Sunday, June 17, 2012
By: Tara Bozick | GoDanRiver
Published: June 04, 2012 Updated: June 04, 2012 - 8:20 PM
A newly formed North Carolina Coalition Against Uranium Mining seeks to “wake up” North Carolina leaders and residents about proposed uranium mining in Virginia.
Lake Gaston resident Mike Pucci officially formed the coalition in May as an affiliate of The Virginia Coalition and the Roanoke River Basin Association — groups opposed to lifting Virginia’s 30-year moratorium on uranium mining.
“We totally respect and understand that this is a Virginia issue. There’s no benefit to North Carolina,” said coalition chairman Pucci, “There’s only risk.”
Gov. Bob McDonnell asked state lawmakers to delay making a decision on lifting the moratorium until a multi-agency state workgroup could analyze uranium issues and studies and draft a conceptual uranium regulatory framework.
So far, the North Carolina coalition comprises elected officials, business leaders and associations, but Pucci said he will next target property owners and residents to join the coalition’s efforts to raise awareness across the border, influence North Carolina lawmakers and put pressure on Virginia to keep the ban.
More than a million people in Virginia and North Carolina rely on drinking water from the Roanoke River Basin, where uranium mining is proposed. Pucci is concerned about water quality downstream of a uranium mine and mill in the event of a disaster releasing radioactive contaminants into the water supply.
“I think absolutely lawmakers in North Carolina, particularly in the river basin, should pay a great deal of attention to what’s going on,” said North Carolina Rep. Jim Crawford, a former chair for the Roanoke River Basin Bi-State Commission.
Mayor Tommy Roberson of Williamston, N.C., agreed the Roanoke River is the “lifeblood” of the eastern part of the state, but that North Carolinians aren’t paying attention to Virginia’s uranium debate and risks downstream in North Carolina.
Roberson, chairman of the Roanoke River Mayors Association, thinks the Virginia uranium workgroup should hear from North Carolina stakeholders.