FORUM: Permitting uranium mining begins water wars

2012-11-17T06:30:00Z 2013-09-11T14:48:27Z FORUM: Permitting uranium mining begins water warsRebecca R. Leas, Ph.D. Professor Emeritus, Clarion University of Pennsylvania, Health Education Specialist; she writes from Rapid City Rapid City Journal

What are you willing to pay for your water? Rates are doubling and tripling as water wars rage between ranchers/farmers and those who frack for gas, oil or uranium. The farmers are losing. Ranchers have been stewards of the land for generations and now are going belly up because outsiders are coming in and stealing their water.

The Canadian company Powertech plans to mine uranium in Custer and Fall River County. They will use a minimum of 4,000 to possibly 8,000 gallons of water per minute from the Madison Aquifer. That comes to 5,760,000 to 11,520,000 gallons per day.

This could dry up water sources for the ranchers and the towns of Edgemont and Hot Springs. What are legislators and commissioners doing about water security?

Without water, the economy will wither and the profits gained by Powertech will go to Canada. I wonder why they don’t have to pay for water like we do. Why are foreign companies allowed to rob of us of our most valuable resource?

South Dakota legislators foolishly passed SB158 in 2011 stripping the Department of Environment and Natural Resources of its regulatory and protective services for “in situ leach” uranium mining (fracking) for the citizens of South Dakota. Sen. Bruce Rampelberg and Reps. David Lust, Brian Gosch, Lance Russell and Mike Verchio all co-sponsored that bill, essentially giving away our water.

Last year, a citizens’ and bi-partisan effort to rescind this bill occurred, but they fought against that, too. Why would they do that?

Fall River County courthouse records show Russell represented his mother in a contentious land dispute and acquired Powertech leases for her at exactly the time that SB 158 came about making many citizens wonder what is going on with our legislators. Sen. Kraus’ husband is an engineer for Powertech and she didn’t recuse herself from voting on this issue.

Even worse, none of the many Rapid City legislators attempted to help or stand up for our water. Rapid City stands in peril because SB 158 now opens the doors for more uranium mining and milling both in the Northern and Southern Hills, greatly endangering the Madison Aquifer. Additionally, this company plans to mill the uranium into yellowcake, which is another national security and public health problem for our region.

Uranium mining is bad business. Disease, economic downturn and water problems follow. Scientific studies show women’s disease and mortality are 50 percent higher than men’s for the same radiation exposure. The EPA has just admitted that fires, such as prairie fires, are a risk to human health when burning over the uranium exploratory holes and the uranium mining operation. This proposed uranium mine is in prime prairie fire area.

The United States has enough stored uranium for 200 years. This uranium would be sold to foreigners. Providing uranium to others is a national security risk.

It sure would be nice if our legislators looked out for our water and the best interests of the people. Powertech lobbyists have inundated and flooded Pierre with their food and goodies. Sufficient and safe healthy water is way more important than any uranium.

Citizens, the public health sector and the medical community all need to weigh in on this very important issue or we, too, shall be victims of the water wars.

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(4) Comments

  1. Wingnut
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    Wingnut - November 24, 2012 8:54 am
    Attention Legislators: here's how it's supposed to work, you must have forgotten or decided to ignore the rules much like the Obama Administration. YOU are OUR public servants!! YOU represent US at the state and federal level regardless of YOUR opinions and YOUR desires on all issues. So, since YOU work for US, if you choose anything other than what WE desire in a POPULAR vote, YOU need to be fired and replaced, YOU need to have your salary and benefits cut. If YOU don't like this arrangement then YOU need to pick a different country to live in that is better suited to YOUR destructive tendancies. YOU are UNAMERICAN and need to leave!!!!
  2. papajuliet
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    papajuliet - November 18, 2012 4:52 pm
    Are all our legislators crooks? I'm beginning to think so. As a resident of Fall River County it seems like this, the sixth generation of my family is about to say "buh-bye". Turn this place over to the bunker-dwellers and greed mongers.
  3. Jonnnnn
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    Jonnnnn - November 18, 2012 7:29 am
    runswith: there are no future generations - there are only next quarter's profits and the annual dividend - nothing else matters. The sooner Fall River and Custer Counties turn themselves into waterless superfund sites the better bad example they will leave for the rest of us on how not to behave.
  4. runswithhorses
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    runswithhorses - November 17, 2012 5:21 pm
    Water is hard to come by here, especially in drought situations. Why would our Legislatures allow a Canadian company to come and mess with our water? I think we need to ask them why they would allow this? Do they have any financial gain from it? I can't think of any other reason they would allow it. Once the Aquifers are gone. We have nothing in South Dakota. We can not live without good water. Shouldn't we think about the future generations?
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