Proposed mine could risk Va. water
As if we don't have enough problems with drinking water in our region, a proposed uranium mine in Pittsylvania County could temporarily contaminate the Virginia Beach water supply if a hurricane or tropical storm causes massive flooding, according to a study released Tuesday.
The area is believed to contain the largest untapped deposit of uranium in the U.S., valued at around $10 billion, according to the Southern Environmental Law Center.
The study, conducted by Michael Baker Corp, found that Kerr Reservoir upstream of Lake Gaston would trap up to 90 percent of radioactive waste. But the remaining contaminants could enter the lake and contaminate drinking water systems.
City engineer Tom Leahy told the Virginia Beach City Council Tuesday that it could take two months to two years to completely flush radioactive contaminants out of Lake Gaston.
Virginia Uranium geologist Patrick Wales discounts the findings because the study did not model Lake Gaston specifically, but stopped 30 miles upstream. The briefing document of the study clearly states that the modeling is not "directly related" to Virginia Beach but can be used for future investigation.
Virginia residents don't need to sound an alarm like D.C. residents did over lead in their water just yet. The state has had a moratorium on uranium mining since 1982, which was passed in response to a similar uranium mining proposal. Before uranium can be mined in Virginia, the General Assembly would have to lift the ban. And groups like the Southern Environmental Law Center are doing everything in their power to keep the ban in place.
| February 2, 2011; 2:42 PM ET
Categories: Elizabeth Flock, Virginia
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