By Gabe Semenza
April 1, 2009
Uranium mining supporters say a new report proves exploratory drilling does not contaminate South Texas groundwater.
The uranium was there in the water all along, they said Wednesday.
Critics in this circular debate, however, don't trust the report's data.
As early as the 1970s, levels of naturally occurring uranium found in South Texas groundwater exceeded today's federal standards, the Texas Mining and Reclamation Association reported Wednesday. The association is a group of 100 mining industry members.
The group crunched an extensive online database hosted by the U.S. Geological Service. The mining group found high levels of uranium existed in groundwater in areas that had yet to be mined, members said.
"This is a pretty significant finding," said Larry McGonagle, chairman of the mining association's uranium subcommittee. "Exploration causes contamination? There's not really a basis in that conclusion."
In 1973, the Atomic Energy Commission sought to find, sample and analyze uranium deposits in the United States. Investigators sampled water from more than 17,000 Texas wells.
The mining association contends 400 Texas wells - 108 in the Coastal Bend - showed uranium levels greater than today's federal standards. The group cites the federal database.
Two Victoria wells tested positive for unacceptable uranium levels 36 years ago, but none in Goliad did, according to the mining association's findings. In Goliad, a legal debate brews about proposed uranium mining.
Jim Blackburn, a Houston environmental attorney, represents Goliad County and concerned residents who sued Uranium Energy Corp. for allegedly contaminating their groundwater. The lawsuit is pending.
Uranium Energy Corp. drilled 100 Goliad test wells before reporting baseline uranium levels, which tainted findings and nearby wells, Blackburn said.
"This report is being put out in an attempt to create an argument. I would be surprised if I don't run across this at the next meeting on the Uranium Energy Corp. permit," the lawyer said.