Pat Calhoun, President, Goliad County Farm
Bureau, in white shirt: “I don’t think uranium
mining is safe in our aquifer and our hope
is that UEC and any future uranium mining companies
are not granted a permit here in Goliad County.”
For more information, contact:
Attorney Jim Blackburn, representing Goliad County, 713-501-9007;
Art Dohmann, Goliad County Ground Water Conservation District, 361-564-7082;
Pat Calhoun, Goliad County Farm Bureau, 361-645-3218
Uranium Mining in South Texas draws Public to Protect Drinking Water Supply
Goliad County Elected Officials and
over 200 Citizens cite serious ground water and
environmental threats from Uranium Energy Corporation’s
application to TCEQ
(Goliad, Texas) The first
hearing of a long process to determine whether
Uranium Energy Corporation (UEC) will receive a
permit to conduct uranium mining in Goliad County
was held on May 14 in Goliad’s Memorial Auditorium.
"Goliad County is party to this hearing in order to protect its groundwater, which is the lifeblood of the County", said Jim Blackburn, attorney for Goliad County. "Goliad County believes that UEC has already contaminated groundwater due to its exploration mining activities. We have no faith that they are a well-run company or that their representations can be believed.
Over 200 citizens showed up to support Goliad County, the Goliad County Groundwater Conservation District, several organizations and 46 citizens who have been designated as parties in opposition to the issuance of this permit. Over the next several months, a legal discovery process will occur with a trial-type proceeding scheduled to begin on January 4, 2010. A final decision is not expected on the permit application until mid 2010.
“From a ground water perspective, we were pleased to get party status because we have distinct issues that need to be fully addressed,” said Art Dohmann of the Goliad County Ground Water Conservation District. “For example, we are concerned that the area of proposed mining is in the recharge zone of the Gulf Coast Aquifer which provides all of the water for domestic and livestock use for Goliad County. It is a long-documented fact that our aquifer is varied in structure, it is unconfined, and the ground water migrates into adjoining counties.”
The Goliad County officials and citizens praised State Office of Administrative Hearings Judge Richard Wilfong for flexibility when he aligned 43 individuals accepted by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality at a previous Commission hearing with three additional individual landowners who spoke about their specific concerns. They were also pleased that Judge Wilfong set the hearing date eight months into the future, tentatively for the weeks of January 4 – 15, 2010.
“I think it was great that we’re pushing this back until January and the Judge was flexible in granting people status. It gives everybody a chance to state their point of view,” said Pat Calhoun with the Goliad County Farm Bureau. “I don’t think uranium mining is safe in our aquifer and our hope is that UEC and any future uranium mining companies are not granted a permit here in Goliad County.”
Calhoun will coordinate participation of the aligned parties, which includes the Anders-Weeser Volunteer Fire Department, St. Peters Lutheran Church and over forty individual landowners who use the water for drinking and bathing in their homes and for their livestock.
DeWitt County landowner and cattle raiser Richard Bettge was one of the additional parties accepted to the case yesterday. His testimony echoed Dohmann’s ground water concerns.
“We are drinking water from the same aquifers that will be mined. It is our position that water can move horizontally from the mining site into the wells that we drink from if the mining process is not carefully controlled and the water quality during mining and clean-up will be harmful to our health as well as the health of our livestock and wildlife if it migrates into our wells. The water quantity may also be reduced.”
Bettge continued, “The shallow Evangeline Aquifer is an abundant source of high quality drinking water. We feel that the mining process as well as the cleanup will reduce water levels in our wells and may even require deeper wells to obtain satisfactory water quantity for our needs. If the Evangeline Aquifer is lost because of heavy pumping, we will be faced with pumping our drinking water from a less desirable aquifer with respect to water quality, and will require higher pumping costs due to increased lift. We could lose our underground water supply."
Uranium Energy Corporation Attorney Monica Jacobs questioned Bettge, whose land is within a few miles of the proposed mining site, about his qualifications for commenting scientifically and was surprised to learn that he is a Licensed Professional Engineer retired from the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service with over 34 years’ soil, water, and irrigation experience across South Texas and four years of consulting experience in the private sector.
Bettge also cited concerns about the health of cattle and wildlife on the Bettge’s land, inadequate or no restoration after mining, property value and other economic impacts, airborne contaminants, and improper monitoring.
“Many people think this is a Goliad County problem. I believe this is a problem for DeWitt and Victoria Counties as well,” continued Bettge.
Also participating in yesterday’s contested case hearing were the Executive Director of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and TCEQ’s Office of Public Interest Counsel.
In addition to the administrative fight, Goliad County is also suing UEC in federal court for contamination of the groundwater and violation of the federal Safe Drinking Water Act.
"Goliad County believes that UEC has already contaminated the groundwater due to its exploration mining activities,” said Attorney Blackburn. “We have no faith that they are a well-run company or that their representations can be believed. They committed over 147 separate violations of regulations of the Texas Railroad Commission during exploration activities from May 2006 to March 2008 and the groundwater in monitoring wells exceeds federal drinking water standards for uranium and radium 226. That's simply unacceptable."
The federal court case is set for a trial in July, 2009.
"We are claiming in federal court that the actions of UEC in violating the rules and contaminating the groundwater created a public nuisance and a nuisance per se. They left over a hundred boreholes open for longer than the 48 hours allowed by the rules of the Texas Railroad Commission. Their actions caused contamination to be released into water that otherwise is suitable for drinking. We can't live with that. We are doing whatever we can to address this situation. We are in federal court to protect the County from UEC," said Blackburn.