The headline of this article was changed on Sept.8, 2011, to better reflect that it is a letter to the editor. The original headline was “Fredericksburg and New Uranium Mining.”
The University of Mary Washington and the Fredericksburg area’s access to safe drinking water is a growing concern as legislators begin the decision process on whether to lift the 30-year ban on uranium mining this January.
The discussion of lifting the ban, while focused on Southside Virginia, would and affect the Fredericksburg, Spotsylvania, Orange, and Fairfax County water supplies.
Geologists have agreed that there are other deposits of uranium throughout the state, besides the site in Pittsylvania County, where mining operations could occur.
Though Virginia Uranium, the company interested in mining uranium in Virginia, has stated that its only intention is to mine the deposits in Pittsylvania County, it has told its investors, “To this day Coles Hill is the first of more major discoveries in Virginia.” So what will happen if the ban is lifted this January?
One thing is for certain: Uranium mining across the state could threaten millions of Virginians’ access to safe, clean drinking water, and the Fredericksburg area could feel the full effect of mining operations.
Orange County was once considered for mining before the ban was put in place, and could be considered for mining once again.
This would place millions of tons of toxic waste, containing numerous heavy metals and radioactive substances, just west of the Fredericksburg area, in the Rappahannock watershed.
The Rappahannock River is Fredericksburg, Spotsylvania County, Fairfax County, and Orange County’s main source of drinking water. If at any point the aboveground waste storage facilities in Orange were to be overrun by a heavy rain or natural disaster, these areas would be in the direct path of a toxic spill.
Already, mining operations in Pittsylvania County have been found to be a direct threat to Lake Gaston and the drinking water source for millions of Virginians in the Virginia Beach area.
As conversations begin on lifting the ban on uranium mining this January, it’s only a matter of time before Fredericksburg and the University of Mary Washington is once again threatened by uranium mining.