Goliad residents speak out concerning uranium drilling permit
Aug. 4, 2011 at 3:04 a.m.
Updated Aug. 6, 2011 at 3:06 a.m.
GOLIAD - Goliad residents are concerned uranium mining will contaminate the county's drinking water, but company officials say not so.
On Thursday, people on both sides of the issue packed the Julie Wimberly building at the Goliad County Fairgrounds to let the EPA know how they feel.
Uranium Energy Corp. has received a permit from the state for an exemption to drill for uranium in a portion of the Gulf Coast Aquifer.
Now the permit must be approved by the Environmental Protection Agency.
Representatives from the EPA agreed to attend an open Goliad County Groundwater Conservation District hearing before ruling.
Residents against the exemption based their arguments on the portion of the EPA rules that bans drilling exemptions where there are drinkable water sources.
"We have been in a drought for quite some time," said Goliad County resident Mary Anklan. "We need every precious drop of water."
Anklan expressed concern that water used for human and livestock consumption is connected to the portion of the aquifer UEC is asking for an exemption, and as such it could be contaminated.
Art Dohmann, president of the groundwater district, was concerned the water supplies around the area granted an exemption would be contaminated by the mining process.
"Goliad County cannot survive with a contaminated aquifer," Dohmann said.
He said the exemption for a portion of the aquifer was based on faulty evidence that the water was not fit to drink.
A rancher from Duvall County, Rocky Carillo, said uranium mines near his property have not contaminated his drinking water.
"The first uranium mines went in four miles from my house in 1972," said Carillo. He said both people and livestock safely drink well water from his ranch even after the uranium mining began.
Carillo said many of the issues residents are concerned about actually stem from oil and gas drilling but not from uranium drilling.
UEC's Environmental Health and Safety Manager Craig Wall addressed the concerns raised by local residents.
"Between 98 and 99 percent of the water used by UEC is recycled and goes back into the ground," Wall said. Wall explained that UEC uses water and oxygen to release uranium attached to sand particles 300 feet under the ground, then separates the water from the uranium at a plant and recycles the water.
"It serves us no benefit to use all the water in the aquifer," Wall said.
Wall said UEC will follow rules set by the TCEQ to avoid contamination of surrounding water sources and that it is in the best interest of UEC to keep the uranium contained.
Under TCEQ regulation, Wall said, the UEC will test a series of monitor wells surrounding the drilling sites, to ensure uranium is not spreading.
"Residents expressed concern that we will re-introduce uranium into the area," Wall said. "The uranium is already in the ground. That is why our company has spent resources to pursue mining it."