Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Uranium Mining in Virginia Delayed Another Year

Uranium Mining in Virginia Delayed Another Year

Posted by: brad – Jan 20, 2014

RICHMOND -- A bill was tabled this past week that would require uranium exploration permit holders to reimburse the State Health Department for providing water supply analyses to residents near Southside drilling activities.

Proposed by Sen. Frank Ruff Jr., R- Mecklenburg, Senate Bill 547 mandated permit holders sample and submit an analysis of private wells within 750 feet of exploration activity to the Virginia Department of Health every six months to inspect water quality.

The bill, which is being carried over until next year’s General Assembly session, required an easy-to-understand explanation of the test results. The legislation also necessitated a final sample be taken six months after each exploratory hole is plugged.

According to a press release, Ruff chose to postpone his bill after speaking with several stakeholders and Pittsylvania residents whom experienced problems with their wells after exploratory drilling occurred.
“My goal is to get somebody at the health department to take that report and translate it into something people can understand,” Ruff said. “We hope we can have a more comprehensive way of looking at it.”

Ruff says the bill in no way suggested future mining activity take place in the commonwealth.
“There was a bill last year to lift the moratorium,” Ruff said. “It was withdrawn at the last minute because there was no support for it.”

Co-patron Sen. William Stanley Jr., R- Moneta, says water quality is a concern of everyone in Southside Virginia.

“Whenever drilling occurs there seems to be an alteration to the quality of water,” said Stanley, denoting an increase of lead in some surrounding wells. “

Stanley says SB547 -- as it was introduced -- was intended to safeguard the health of Virginians from any adverse effects drilling for core samples might create.

“What we’re trying to do is protect the water of our people,” Stanley said. “It is one of our greatest natural resources.”
According to Stanley, Southside Virginia is home to some of the best watersheds in the country.

Jack Dunavant, president of Dunavant Engineering and Construction in Halifax County, has opposed uranium mining in Virginia for more than 30 years. He says SB547 may have looked good on paper, but ultimately was not.

“I don’t know how you could craft it (a bill) so a lot of these people would understand it,” Dunavant said. “I don’t know how to alert people other than to tell them it (the level of contaminants) exceeds certain acceptable limits.”

The engineer says SB547 was a step in the right direction, but the legislation needs to impose further regulations on any company wishing to begin exploratory drilling.

“It’s an OK bill,” Dunavant said. “But they (permit holders) should be required to notify any adjacent land owner and anyone who has a well within 1,000 feet of the property line where they’re drilling.”

Dunavant says the overwhelming majority of Southside residents oppose any sort of mining in the area.

“I cannot see the state ever allowing mining to happen because of the long-term detriment,” Dunavant said. “The bottom line is it’s not a question of if -- it’s (chemicals) going to get out -- but when and by what means.”

Dunavant says if companies could mine without leaving behind tailings, no one would have a problem extracting uranium. However, the technology simply does not exist.

An email was sent to a spokesman for the Virginia Department of Health but it had not been returned at press time.


Ruff delays uranium bill

Posted: Wednesday, January 15, 2014 11:05 am

Just a few days into the 2014 General Assembly, State Sen. Frank Ruff, R-Mecklenburg, has delayed a bill he proposed last week that would have added further regulations on exploratory drilling of uranium in Pittsylvania County.
Ruff represents portions of the county in the Virginia Senate.

Ruff said he postponed the bill after speaking with “several stakeholders,” adding he would carry over the bill into the 2015 session.

“My long-term focus remains on protecting the lives and drinking water of those who live in our region,” Ruff said in the release. “I will work with the new administration to review existing regulations dealing with exploratory drilling to identify a more comprehensive approach to ensuring safe drinking water for Southern Virginia.”

Lawmakers consider exploratory drilling regulations