Published: March 20, 2012 Updated: March 20, 2012 - 9:00 PM
Residents and leaders downstream of a proposed uranium site in Pittsylvania County say they bear risks from the project, but have nothing to gain.
Members of the Roanoke River Basin Bi-State Commission reviewed the key findings of two studies on the socio-economic impacts of uranium mining on the Dan River Region during a commission meeting in Danville on Tuesday. The reports left attendees wondering how those downstream, both in Virginia and North Carolina, would be affected.
“I don’t see where the state of Virginia as a whole benefits to offset the liabilities,” said commission member John Feild.
Katherine Heller, senior economist at RTI International in Research Triangle Park, N.C., outlined the firm’s key findings and told members that Virginia Uranium Inc.’s proposed project could bring the region (within a 50-mile radius) 724 jobs and $162 million a year in a reasonable case scenario, assuming the site remains in compliance with regulations and is managed well.
RTI predicts some environmental contamination even within compliance of regulations. Impacts can be limited, but not eliminated,
But it’s possible for human error to overcome all of the best design and regulation that’s available,” Heller said, adding the Ranger mine in Australia crossed lines of process water and potable water that resulted in workers showering and drinking water with elevated levels of uranium.
Heller explained that one large or several small spills would significantly change the predicted environmental and economic outcomes.
“The bottom line is that we don’t know what would happen in the future,” Heller said.
Members also reviewed findings from the Chmura Economics and Analytics report commissioned by the Virginia Coal and Energy Commission.
Commission member Sen. Frank Ruff, R-Clarksville, would like a complete study on how all the people he represents would be affected and would like assurance that those with homes downstream could be made whole for any losses in the event of contamination.
“I think the reality is when you add up all the potential losses for citizens and localities that there is no great argument that anyone is going to benefit except for the shareholders and the employees that are hired,” Ruff said.
Warren is worried that even a small spill could affect the water supply for growing populations in North Carolina, and that radioactive mill waste would have to be monitored forever.
“We just have to take care of our wonderful water resources,” Warren said.
Residents are invited to attend the Virginia Roanoke River Basin Advisory Committee meetings discussing the National Academy of Sciences study and other uranium reports. For more information, call Tammy Stephenson at (804) 698-4456 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.