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‘Hot Water’ screening draws high turnout

South Boston NewsSouth Boston News
Film producer Liz Rogers, accompanied by her grandsons, Nathan Callahan and Taylor Roper, along with Sarah Dunavant entered Halifax County High School on Saturday evening prior to the presentation of her film on uranium mining entitled “Hot Water.” / July 15, 2013
The maker of a critical new documentary on uranium mining visited Halifax County High School on Saturday night to screen the film before an audience of several hundred people, mostly opponents of the Coles Hill mine in Pittsylvania County.

Liz Rogers, producer of “Hot Water,” traveled from Los Angeles to Southside Virginia this week to show off the movie at HCHS, and to gather material on Virginia Uranium Inc.’s mine project in Pittsylvania, footage of which she said she plans to incorporate in the final version of the documentary.

“Hot Water” was first shown in March at the Environmental Film Festival in Washington, D.C. Among its backers are executive producer Elizabeth Kucinich and her husband, former Ohio congressman and presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich.

As part of her Southside visit, Rogers dropped by the new downtown Chatham office of VUI, which the company opened Friday to boost its public relations profile.

Rogers’ film points in a different direction, offering a stark depiction of the dangers of uranium mining, as witnessed in the western U.S. “Hot Water” looks at a legacy of radioactive contamination from mines built half a century ago, and challenges the industry to show how its practices have improved since that time.

“To date no one has been able to do this [mining] safely,” said Rogers.

“Hot Water” follows the history of mining projects in several western locations: the Badlands of South Dakota, Nebraska, Colorado, Utah and southern California. Each time, the film suggests, nearby residents were exposed to contaminated drinking water, and “Hot Water” explores at length the consequences — including the heightened risks of thyroid cancer, brain tumors and physical deformities.

In addition to posing direct risks to humans, radioactive contamination has seeped into the grassland environment of the West, threatening the region’s livestock industry.

The film is rife with images of the majestic Rocky Mountain and Great Plains, which punctuates the filmmakers’ theme of environmental degradation from mining.

“We’ve been working on this film for over four years,” said Rogers, referring to herself and collaborator Kevin Flint, “seeing the land and all its beauty and the risk of seeing all this blown away. It’s dangerous and it’s poisonous. It’s poison for tens of thousands of years for those who don’t know what the half life of uranium is.

“That’s why we are fighting so hard to preserve our land for our children and grandchildren and their families who have lived here for hundreds of years. We don’t want to drink poison,” she said.

The audience at the high school auditorium — which had to strain to hear the movie over the school’s aged sound system — gave Rogers a standing ovation at the end of her presentation.

The screening of “Hot Water” gave uranium mining opponents another opportunity to state their objections to the Virginia Uranium project, which failed in the General Assembly earlier this year, although VUI has vowed to go back to the legislature for approval next year.

Andrew Lester, head of the Roanoke River Basin Association, a leading opponent of uranium mining in Virginia, told the audience, “This is our country, this is our home. We are morally obligated to make sure we protect it. Nobody has ever shown where uranium mining can be done safely and while we need economic development and jobs, we don’t want to quench our thirst by drinking poison.”

Tom Leahy, public works director for the City of Virginia Beach, also attended the Saturday night screening. Virginia Beach, which relies on supplies from Lake Gaston to provide drinking water to more than a million residents, is staunchly opposed to the Coles Hill project. The city has been joined by Chesapeake, Norfolk and 17 jurisdictions in the Tidewater area that also draw water from Lake Gaston. Upstream from the lake, noted Leahy, 87 percent of the releases from a mining accident would end up in the Banister River in Pittsylvania and Halifax.

Rogers came to Halifax at the invitation of Jack and Sarah Dunavant of We The People, Inc. In addition to leading the movie presentation, Rogers and the Dunavants visited the Coles Hill site while she was visiting for the weekend.

The film drew a positive review from at least one viewer who turned out Saturday night, a Nathalie woman who approached Rogers afterwards in the school lobby.

I never knew anything about the dangers of [mining],” the woman said to Rogers, “Thank you for coming and telling us about this.”

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OK- time to come clean. Did Dunavants/ We The People _rent_ the high school auditorium to show this film or did HCPS allow its use gratis? To date no one has answered that question, and if a rental fee was not collected I consider it a blatant misuse of public property.

If HCPS did not receive due and just compensation for the staging of this propaganda, they no longer have any leg to stand on when they cry about budget.

Enquiring minds want to know how their tax dollars are being used.


As a matter of fact, We the People DID fill out all required paperwork and have paid all associated fees for the use of the High School.


Sarah, thanks for your reply and for doing things ethically. smile


Thanks to Sarah, Jack and "We the People" for doing this. As co-sponsors of this event the Roanoke River Basin Association would appreciate criticism of this event be based on factual content and not "gotcha procedure".
Gene Addesso
President, Roanoke River Basin Association


Its now time to expose all the links between the Canadian mining company's front organization, VUI, and all of Virginia's elected officials who have taken money and free trips to Paris and Saskatchewan to buy their votes, the McDonnell controversy pales in comparison to the graft and corruption played
on the elected officials by this organization....Hello Rachel Maddow, we have another story for you.....


So more coal, Virginia? We need mindful conversation about alternatives. Unfortunately all energy comes with inherent problems. Coal is blamed for 40,000 deaths annually in China due to respiratory illness and enhances the greenhouse effect. Hydro power in Quebec causes mercury poisoning in lakes and hydro development in North America is maxed out. Nuclear energy comes with its own bag of problems but right now uranium looks pretty good!


I wonder if it ever registered to this group that they were getting over 40% of their power from nuclear during this event.

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