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Bi-state water board - packed with legislators - dives into uranium fray

SoVaNow.com / July 26, 2012
Uranium dominated Wednesday’s meeting of the Roanoke River Bi-State Commission, with a vote for the full body to move forward with a resolution condemning uranium mining in Virginia.

The Bi-State Commission, meeting in Henderson, N.C., also received a newly unveiled study commissioned by the Roanoke River Basin Association concluding there could be long-term chronic degradation to the region’s water supply should anything go awry.

The Bi-State Commission was set up about 10 years ago by Virginia and North Carolina to work cooperatively on water and natural resource issues. Both state’s delegations are comprised primarily of legislators; the Virginia side includes, among others, Del. James Edmunds of Halifax, State Sen. Frank Ruff of Clarksville and Fifth District Congressman Robert Hurt of Chatham (who was absent).

The Bi-State Commission’s vote to preliminarily approve a resolution represents another significant move by North Carolina legislators and policymakers to fight uranium mining in Virginia, fearing they have nothing to gain and everything to lose.

“We’ve reached a point [where we] … need to make a statement that we really mean business,” said past chairman Del. Edith Warren, a Democrat representing Martin and Pitt counties in North Carolina.

The resolution will be presented to both Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell as well as the Uranium Working Group, established by him to set up a framework for uranium mining and milling regulations.

The commission will take as a basis for its resolution the North Carolina delegation’s already-passed resolution against Virginia’s possible lifting of its 30-year-old uranium ban, citing the potential for “enormous and unacceptable” environmental and economic consequences if something goes awry.

The commission is aiming to pass its updated resolution next month.

Del. Charles Poindexter, a Franklin County Republican, abstained from the vote, saying he would await the results of the Uranium Working Group.

The Roanoke River Basin Association, a non-governmental non-profit that opposes uranium mining in Chatham, released its study by Dr. Robert Moran that details high water usage by the mining and milling process that, it asserts, would increase water competition and could deplete nearby drinking wells.

The Roanoke River Basin’s Olga Kolotushkina also passed out copies of Virginia Uranium Inc.’s own study, never released publicly, that she acquired through the Canadian Securities Administrators, where VUI was required by law to file.

The commission also got review of the city of Virginia Beach’s Phase 2 study of the uranium mine’s potential impact on its water supply, which shows devastating effects for bodies of water closest to the mine and mill should a catastrophic event release toxins into the watershed.

The Banister River in Halifax and Clarksville, on Buggs Island Lake, would be especially vulnerable, and contaminants would stay in the river-bottom sediment for decades, according to Dr. Peter Pommerenk of the City of Virginia Beach.

Virginia Uranium Inc. insists that uranium could be mined and milled safely with modern technology and that the new industry would stimulate the depressed area with jobs and investment. The Virginia legislature is expected to take a vote early next year on lifting the longstanding moratorium.



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