To the Virginia Uranium Mining Opposition:

 

This is a call to action for support from the formidable and effective alliance of Virginia and North Carolina citizens and leaders whose vision and commitment to work for a safe future resulted in successfully convincing Virginia legislators to keep the ban on uranium mining, at least for the present.

 

Our present call for action is pressing, the cause immediate, as up to and possibly more than 50,000 – 82,000 tons of coal ash (this was an early, more likely accurate  Duke Energy estimate) breached into the Dan River, near Eden, North Carolina, coating the river bottom with toxic contamination for 70 miles until the river empties into Kerr Lake Reservoir. The nearby Bannister River, which was threatened by potential uranium contamination, empties into Kerr Reservoir only a few miles from where the Dan River flows into the reservoir.

 

The Bannister and Dan River waters are close to one another and mutual in their destination, so the need to protect them from long-term coal ash contamination is the same as it was to protect them from uranium’s radioactive threat.  While the dangers of radioactive uranium have been largely recognized by the public, the dangers of coal ash have been largely unknown, let alone the dangers of low-dose, incremental exposures to it.  In fact, as with the dangers of uranium, coal ash has dangerous constituents such as lead, mercury, arsenic, boron, selenium, and volatile hydrocarbons. The contamination can last lifetimes.

 

Just as Virginians and North Carolinians of all political stripes and walks of life joined the uranium mining opposition and together stopped a mutual threat, now we must join forces to get Duke Energy to do what it said it would do, namely, clean up the contamination from the the Dan River disaster. CEO Lynn Good said that insurance and shareholders’ funds would pay for the cleanup.

At present, Duke Energy plans to only clean up a couple of coal ash pileups, only a small fraction of the total Dan River discharge, and to let the rest stay where it is, coating the bottom of the river and spreading into Kerr Reservoir, where they plan on the contamination will disperse to “trace”, legal levels. The company also claims that new sediment is covering some of the coal ash and that it would be safer to leave it in place and too expensive to vacuum up clean as well as contaminated sediment.   But that’s not what the EPA has said about General Electric’s decades long-time PCB contamination of the Hudson River; (even after years of sediment building up and moving with the river, the EPA says, clean the contamination up:

PCBs in the sediment are not safely buried. River sediment is continually redistributed across the bottom by erosion and river flows. This movement exposes PCB-contaminated sediment, making it available to the fish. Elevated levels of PCBs, up to 1,650 parts per million, are still found at the surface of the sediment, and 90% of the sediment cores collected in 2002 and 2003 had PCBs in the top two inches. PCBs move throughout the river. But without targeted dredging, PCBs in the sediment will continue to find their way into fish at unacceptable levels and for an unacceptable length of time….Letting nature take its course will not protect people and animals who eat fish from the Hudson.” (http://www.epa.gov/region2/superfund/hudson/just_facts_08_04.htm)

We need the support of the powerful Chatham and friends uranium mining fighting force — the support of concerned citizens and area leaders who effectively fought to protect the region from environmental and economic ruin — including, We the People,  Keep the Ban, the Sierra Club, the N C Coalition Against Uranium Mining, the city leaders of Virginia Beach and the lobbyists who represented the city, Virginia legislative delegates, and other businesses and organizations.

 

The Dan River, (60 % which flows in Virginia), Kerr Lake Reservoir, and Gaston Lake  — the water supply to two million Virginians and North Carolinians — are under an assault that will continue for decades if Duke Energy is not mandated by law or public pressure to commit its considerable resources to an immediate, full-scale, exhaustive, comprehensive, GPS-mapped vacuum dredging coal ash cleanup before the coal ash spreads further and further, inundating Kerr Reservoir with toxic pollutants that will get caught in the dammed reservoir. (For uranium tailings, the projection was that 80% of the contaminants would settle in Kerr Reservoir, to be stirred up and passed on to Lake Gaston over time.)

 

Over the next several weeks concerned citizens and environmental and other organizations will be working with and lobbying North Carolina legislators in an effort to get them to mandate such a comprehensive vacuum dredging cleanup of the Dan River disaster.

 

To give advice, help strategize, or to see how you can help, go to Environmental Justice-Pollution Prevention (ej-pp.org), or call me, Deborah Ferruccio at 252-257-2604 or 919-610-6234.

 

Thanks for your support,

 

Deborah Ferruccio