Health dept. director opposes uranium mining in Bee County
by Scott Reese Willey
Nov 20, 2008 | 1809 views | 0 0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Dennis DeWitt
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Bee County Health Department Director Dennis DeWitt opposes uranium mining in Bee County.

DeWitt told county leaders not to approve a resolution in support of uranium mining in Bee County.

Executives from several uranium mining companies asked county leaders last week to adopt a resolution.

The executives said the resolution will help them when the Legislature meets this January and with opponents of uranium mining.

The executives assured the court that mining uranium using oxygenated water in an endless loop, known as in-situ mining, is safe for drinking water and the environment.

However, DeWitt cited what he believes are faults with in-situ mining, and he brought those to the attention of commissioners in a written memorandum obtained by the Bee-Picayune though the Texas Public Information Act.

“The Bee County Commissioners Court is the gatekeeper for air, water and ground as well as all the people, flora and fauna of the county,” DeWitt said in his written statement. “As gatekeeper, the court is primarily responsible for health and safety first before all else. We must think in terms of decades and centuries, not simply years. We must realize the decisions we make today may impact present and future generations of Bee County residents for hundreds of years. It is my recommendation as the Bee County health officer to the Bee County Commissioners Court that Bee County not pass a resolution supporting uranium mining operations in Bee County.”

He said he is unsure why the mining companies even need a resolution since there is presently no law that prevents them from leasing property and mining uranium in Bee County or any county.

“It is also my recommendation to determine exactly why such a resolution is desired,” DeWitt told county leaders. “Perhaps Texas legislation is imminent or legal challenges can be deflected, or, perhaps, the resolution is desired to utilize at a future date and time should Bee County and the ‘companies’ face off in court on a mining issue.”

Contrary to what was reported in the Saturday, Nov. 15, edition, of the Bee-Picayune, the Bee County commissioners tabled adopting the resolution until they could hear from other interested parties, particularly an executive of one uranium mining company which has leased property in Bee County and which has already drilled test holes.

However, the commissioners court seemed willing to support uranium mining in Bee County if comments made by commissioners at the last meeting were any indication.

“I don’t think that’s going to be a problem,” County Judge David Silva told one mining executive. “I think you’re going to have the support of this court.”

However, he added, the commissioners court wanted to give everyone a chance to be heard before the court adopts a resolution in support of uranium mining.

Commissioners will take the matter up during their next regular meeting on Monday, Nov. 24.

In his memorandum to the court, DeWitt cites a raft of reasons for commissioners to refuse to support uranium mining in Bee County.

Here are a few he listed:

•The Goliad County Commissioners Court has an active federal lawsuit against Uranium Energy Corp. in Goliad County regarding their uranium operations.

•Goliad County has passed a county resolution in “Firm and absolute opposition to in-situ uranium mining in Goliad County,” sent a demand letter to the Texas Railroad Commission to stop UEC mining activities and wants uranium activities to “cease and desist” in Goliad County.

•A lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court by Goliad County (by) an individual landowner and alleges infractions of the Safe Drinking Water Act nearby to areas where Uranium Energy Corp. is currently drilling.

•The mining activity requires approximately 7.2 million gallons recirculated water per field to drive the toxic chemicals through the aquifer to the surface ...water from the process is mobilized in the aquifer.

•Residents of Kleberg County received EPA notices in October 2004 regarding drinking water due to uranium contamination. The letter advised the residents to “consult their family doctor...and not use these two wells for drinking water.”

•When landowners’ well water became undrinkable in Goliad County following exploration by UEC last year, the Uranium Research and Advisory Committee of Goliad County concluded, “in our judgment, in-situ leach mining cannot be done safely in Goliad County.”

•According to my understanding of the Sept. 29, 2008, Southwest Grounding Consulting LLC Study for Blackburn and Carter law firm, representing Goliad County, there are 80 mine sites in South Texas with 51 of them indicating groundwater is in worse chemical condition than it was before mining operations commenced.

•Tests are showing 100 percent of the oxygenated chemicals cannot be removed. Those that remain tend to keep the uranium and other toxic chemicals and materials in solution and thereby allow them to migrate in the aquifers.

•Uranium miners scoff at the idea of groundwater migrating and say themselves “groundwater moves too slowly to cause a serious risk, about 30 feet per year in some cases.”
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