Uranium Mining and Drinking Water Supplies


  • Ben Stanford - Hazen and Sawyer

Two Hazen and Sawyer engineers contributed to a report on the impact of uranium mining on Virginia's drinking water supply.

If the Commonwealth of Virginia were to lift the moratorium on uranium mining, the development of the Coles Hill site in the Roanoke River basin would represent a wholly new potential risk to water supplies downstream. In addition to the Coles hill site, however, the Virginia Department of Mines Minerals and Energy (DMME) has identified other formations around the state with elevated uranium content. These formations cut across all of the major river basins in Virginia. If allowed, there is a possibility that other economically viable deposits could be mined in any of these areas.

Given the uniqueness of uranium mining in Virginia, its potential impacts on drinking water supplies, and the complexity of Nuclear Regulatory Commission regulations, an educational forum was held in December 2012 in order to familiarize Virginia’s drinking water community with the current state of knowledge on this topic. The forum was included speakers with expertise on uranium mining from other regions of the country as well as those with an understanding of local Virginia geology and drinking water regulations. This presentation summarizes the presentations and discussions during the forum, addressing issues such as tailings impoundments, regulations, potential for groundwater and surface water contamination, as well as other topics important to drinking water utilities.

For more information, contact the author at bstanford@hazenandsawyer.com.

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