Just a few miles from Powertech’s Dewey-Burdock in situ recovery (ISR) project, my wife and I, along with our four school-age children, operate an organic ranch. Clean water, clean air and a healthy environment are a hallmark of our operation.
I am also the project manager for the Dewey-Burdock project, hold a degree in chemical engineering from the SD School of Mines & Technology and am a licensed professional engineer in the state of South Dakota. With the upcoming EPA hearings in South Dakota, opponents of the project have submitted letters and editorials, making numerous inaccurate claims that simply contradict the facts.
In 2014, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) issued an operating license for the Dewey-Burdock project. This followed several years of background studies by Powertech and analysis by NRC’s team of qualified scientists and engineers including hydrologists, geologists, ecologists, health physicists, social scientists, nuclear engineers and chemical engineers. In fact, the NRC published a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the project, which concluded, “…there are no environmental impacts that would preclude licensing the facility.”
The environmental consequences raised by opponents of the project continue to ignore the facts, including the expert opinions of the regulatory bodies, such as the NRC. The NRC issued Powertech’s operating license after addressing all environmental concerns expressed by the public at numerous hearings and in written comments.
Studies have shown, and regulatory authorities have confirmed, that there will be no impact to underground sources of drinking water from ISR operations or from the deep injection wells. Keep in mind that the small portion of the Inyan Kara aquifer where ISR operations will take place is not currently suitable as a drinking water supply and neither is the area of the Minnelusa proposed for deep well injection.
The continual exaggeration of water consumption at the Dewey-Burdock project by those opposing the project must also be addressed. In recommending approval of Powertech’s Inyan Kara water rights application, the State of South Dakota clearly stated that Powertech cannot exceed 170 gallons per minute (gpm), much less than that consumed by a 120-acre center pivot.
According to the state, “Approval of this permit would authorize a maximum net (consumptive) withdrawal rate from the Inyan Kara aquifer limited to 0.38 cfs (170 gpm) ….”
Regarding the Madison aquifer, the State of South Dakota did an analysis of available water and stated, “Approval of this application will not result in average annual withdrawals from the Madison aquifer to exceed the average annual recharge to the aquifer.”
The claims made in several letters to the editor that the project will consume 8,000 to 9,000 gpm of water are factually incorrect.
My wife and I intend to be ranching here long after the Dewey-Burdock project is complete. Most likely, at least a couple of our kids will be ranching here, too, along with some grandkids.
We have no reason to believe the Dewey-Burdock will negatively affect our plans in any way.
Dewey-Burdock Project Manager Mark Hollenbeck grew up in Dewey, near Edgemont, S.D. He holds a B.S. degree in Chemical Engineering from South Dakota School of Mines & Technology and is a licensed Professional Engineer in South Dakota.
He has been involved in energy producing industries for much of his career, designing and managing natural gas systems for the Black Hills Division of Montana Dakota Utilities and as the Executive Director of the South Dakota Office of the American Petroleum Institute. He was elected to the South Dakota House of Representatives where he served from 1989 through 1994. He also served as Mayor of Edgemont from 2001 - 2006. Along with his wife and four children, he lives and ranches near the Dewey-Burdock site north of Edgemont.