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Halifax County Service authority honored for anti-uranium efforts

SoVaNow.com / October 28, 2013
Members of the Halifax County Service Authority were presented with a certificate of appreciation on Thursday afternoon to honor their efforts to keep the ban on uranium mining in Virginia. As far back as January 2008, the HCSA passed a resolution calling for the continued moratorium of uranium mining within the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Andrew Lester, executive director of the Roanoke River Basin Association, accompanied by Sarah Dunavant, secretary for We The People of Virginia, presented the framed certificate to HCSA directors. It read: “With your support our powerful coalition of over 60 government entities and dozens of businesses and non profits thwarted efforts to overturn the ban in the General Assembly, protecting our water quality, communities and economy. Despite this great victory, our crucial work continues, and we hope that as we gear up for 2014 you will reaffirm your commitment to protecting the ban.”

Lester told authority members that last year, Virginia Uranium spent $572,000 to lobby Virginia public officials — the most that any group in the state has spent over the last five years and as much as the next two top spenders, Dominion Power and Altria, combined.

“VUI spent all of this money, despite the fact that a socio-economic analysis authorized by the Virginia Coal and Energy Commission concluded that uranium mining could trigger an $11 billion loss statewide under a worst-case scenario — nearly twice as much as the hoped-for positive impact under the study’s best case scenario. This worst case scenario was based on a uranium price of $45 per pound, but this summer, the industry’s spot price reached a seven year low of about $35 per pound,” Lester told board members.

Dunavant added, “Toxic waste and radioactive contamination created by the extraction and processing of uranium have been linked to increases in leukemia, kidney disease and other severe health problems. A containment failure at the first proposed site at Coles Hill could result in the contamination of local groundwater sources and downstream drinking water sources for over 1.9 million people. With all this on the line, it is up to our coalition to defend our state and our communities.”

The HCSA board also heard a report from director Mark Estes who explained that he is continuing to work on customer service enhancements for local water and sewer users. Estes said new fiber optic lines have been installed that will allow customers easy assess to their usage and billing records. He also said that he has received some 75 to 80 requests from customers who want to pay their bills by credit card but are unable to do so. He said he is looking for options to ease methods of payment.

In reviewing projects which are under way, Estes said the authority is still struggling to complete its Maple Avenue project by the end of the year, although time has been added to the contract to allow for 11 change order notices.

He also noted that he has real concerns about the adequacy of the Sutphin Road interceptor and the potential of insufficient capacity to hamper future of industrial development in the Town of Halifax and Sinai. For that reason, he has asked the engineer to review the capacity and advise what impact this may have on the Cowford Road conversion project. Estes said a 2.8 mile section of the sewer main that provides gravity flows from the Centerville-Sinai drainage area and follows Poplar Creek to Railroad Avenue could “be a bump in the road.”

Estes also advised that the Authority has a sewer transmission line which crosses the easement of the Transco-Williams gas pipeline in the Webb Park area. He said the sewer line must be relocated which Williams will reimburse the HCSA upon completion.

The design for the Lasco pump station has been completed and now the authority must secure an easement to bore under the railroad line that serves Presto Products. That may be delayed since the property ownership is changing hands, but an alternative route is being studied, he said.

Although he is waiting for a piece of equipment for the Leigh Street water plant solids removal project, Estes said work is ahead of schedule and the HCSA should be able to discontinue the discharge into the Dan River and vacate the discharge permit before the end of the year as scheduled.

The facilities plan has staff currently in the process of collecting and providing infrastructure data for the system and an analysis as planned by Draper Aden. The plan, estimated to cost some $85,000, calls for an organized approach to replacing the critical water and sewer infrastructure in a progressive and concise manner based on several factors to determine the expected life of each line segment, both sewer and water.

Following a closed session, board members approved a deed of exchange between the Authority and the Town of South Boston which corrected a previous land transfer for lots 1-4 in parcel 68 on Estes Street in the town. The Authority has identified two parcels there for future water system improvements.

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