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LETTER: Uranium mining threatens groundwater

To the Editor: Powertech/Azarga proposes a uranium mine split between Fall River County and Custer County threatening water uses and availability in those areas. This project is loaded with red flags for both water and public health. The economic...

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To the Editor:

Powertech/Azarga proposes a uranium mine split between Fall River County and Custer County threatening water uses and availability in those areas. This project is loaded with red flags for both water and public health. The economic fate of the Black Hills is at stake.

The EPA has proposed rules changes for In Situ Recovery to protect valuable water resources. The current rules apply to conventional uranium mining, and do not provide adequate safeguards. EPA states "groundwater is a valuable and dwindling resource, particularly in western states where most ISR activities are anticipated."

They note that uranium often lies in poor quality water, but acknowledge that with advancing technologies and increasing scarcity of water, this "poor quality" water may have a purpose for both livestock and humans, and thus are worth protecting from further degradation.

They recognize that ISR activities use significant volumes of water and state "the ISR process does directly alter groundwater chemistry, posing the challenge of groundwater restoration and long-term subsurface geochemical stabilization after the ISR operational phase ends." They also acknowledge that the lixiviants used can liberate other elements, particularly heavy metals, and that the migration of these outside the production zone can potentially contaminate surrounding aquifers.

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Dr. Rebecca R. Leas

Health education specialist

Rapid City

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