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Risky business

SoVaNow.com / October 24, 2012
(The following letter from the Roanoke Valley (N.C.) Chamber of Commerce was addressed to Tim Barber, chairman of the Pittsylvania County Board of Supervisors, and forwarded to The Sun for publication in Viewpoint — Ed.)



Dear Chairman Barber:

My name is Allen Purser, I am the President of the Roanoke Valley Chamber of Commerce located downstream from you on the Roanoke River in Roanoke Rapids, N.C. Our business community here is very concerned about your proposed mining and milling of radioactive uranium in our watershed, which has the potential of threatening our water supply, our health and our way of life in this region.

Just one month ago, our community experienced one of those PMP downpour events cited in the Virginia Beach-Baker Study concerning the risk of mining radioactive material in a tropical region frequented by Hurricanes. We had over 11 inches of rainfall in less than 90 minutes and our town was flooded, the drainage systems completely over-run. According to the U.S. Geologic survey, we get more of these types of storms than anywhere else in the country. Furthermore, Hurricane Floyd put the entire eastern third of North Carolina underwater, and we have had three hurricanes hit land in the last 15 years here. These cannot be called “rare” events in my book.

As business people, we understand risk. We have been briefed on the risk of your uranium mining proposal from several site-specific studies, and have reviewed the pointed concerns expressed by the independent NAS research. We also understand that the U.S. has centuries of supply of high grade uranium available for our needs from Canada and Australia and our U.S. sources in arid regions where people and water supply are less affected by human error and acts of God that always come with these types of endeavors. Uranium mining in a hurricane zone with our precipitation patterns is more than risky, it’s foolish!

Our water supply comes from this river. Our economy is driven by the reputation of our clean water; our tax revenue base is a byproduct of the Roanoke River. We have a paper mill here that employs 400 people that would be at risk if your Canadian mining operation contaminates our river. The home value and business depreciation that might occur in our region if the water was fouled by uranium would make the most recent economic downturn look like “the good old days.”

The stewards of our river, selected by each governor from Virginia and North Carolina, five Republicans and five Democrats serving on the Bi-State Commission for the Roanoke River, voted unanimously to keep the uranium mining ban in place. Imagine that, Republicans and Democrats voting together on this issue of mutual interest and concern. In fact, all the communities and counties along the river in North Carolina have passed resolutions urging you to keep the ban in place, for all our sakes. No one here thinks otherwise.

I am aware that a strong majority of citizens in your county are against this mining operation, and many businesses, homeowners and your Hargrave military academy leaders with such a long tradition there are threatening to relocate if this mine is approved. What will that do to your economy when all the educated people leave the area? What will the region look like when the mine closes and you are left with a giant radioactive dump? Is this really a vision for the future?

You have the power to vote to keep the ban in place for your county, and through that vote, advise your governor and general assembly of your opposition. I urge you to do so. If you don’t, you invite litigation forever waged against your county, and your state by those of us who are united downstream to protect our interests, our water, and our way of life. We pray you do the right thing for ALL concerned.

Sincerely,
Allen W. Purser
President/ CEO

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