Uranium Company Denied Water Well Permit in Goliad Co.
The Goliad County Groundwater Conservation District on Tuesday dealt a blow to uranium mining in the county by denying a permit to operate a water well on property that is being tested for the presence of uranium.
The well, on land owned by Joseph R. Jacob and leased to Uranium Energy Corp., was constructed as a standby well for oil and gas production and never used, explained district manager Barbara Smith. When the groundwater district came into existence, the well was registered as required and grandfathered as a livestock well.
“When the uranium company moved in to do exploration and started using this well, it was a revised use and lost its grandfathered status,” said district president Art Dohmann. Dohmann made it clear that this was the only well being discussed and that the water board is not contesting Texas Railroad Commission permits of the existing test wells.
“Yes, we have a concern about these test wells because of the number of penetrations into our sands, but that is not what this public hearing is about,” said Dohmann.
“The company was contacted and said they would have a representative here,” Dohmann said before the decision was made to deny the permit. “They complied with the permit application, but they are not here to answer questions or represent their case. It may be difficult to act on this permit with them not here.”
Contacted by telephone Tuesday afternoon, UEC chief operating officer Harry Anthony said he had not been told about the public hearing on the permit request.
“I contacted Mr. (Brad) Moore,” Smith said. “He told me he would be here.”
Anthony said, “The county is trying to kill it, shut us down. It is being discriminatory. They don’t have all the information. I suppose there is an appeals process. They just can’t pull the plug.”
But the board did, denying the application by unanimous vote following a public hearing.
During the hearing, Dohmann read from the permit application, noting that the well would be pumping about 10,000 gallons of water a day.
“They are requesting a total of 2.5 million gallons per year,” said Dohmann.
According to the permit application, the water “is from an aquifer well below the freshwater potable zone.” The zone is at 200 feet and very high in sulfur (not potable).
That water is then pumped into the test wells.
“That raises a lot of questions,” said Dohmann. “It is very questionable whether the quality of water is appropriate to be used drilling in our aquifer sands.”
Several Goliad county residents made their opinions known.
Margaret Rutherford, who lives near the uranium exploration site and chairs the citizens committee Uranium Information in Goliad, related an experience she had after being away from her home for a couple of weeks and returned to find the water high in sulfur levels.
Rutherford then said, “I am addressing this group because I have a strong concern about being able to drink the water. Knowing when it’s not OK to drink the water. I’m concerned about the water that feeds our livestock. I’m concerned about the water that the wildlife drink. I’m concerned about the fish.
“If this water is pulled at this rate, what is going to happen to the water sands? What is going to happen to the springs in the back of my house? I’m extremely concerned that all of you think about the impact this will have on a great number of people. What will happen? I don’t have those answers. And,
I’m not talking just about uranium, it’s all types of contamination,” added Rutherford. “When you make your decision, think about the future of our water, think about farming and ranching, think about recreation. I don’t know who to turn to. The only people I can turn to is you. Maybe I am expendable, maybe that’s how they see me as a landowner, but this is not just about me. It’s about everyone in this room.”
UEC began drilling operations in mid-May about 15 miles north of Goliad. The site is off Duderstadt Road near the Weser community about two miles from the DeWitt County line. UEC has leased about 2,000 acres in that area. Last month the company confirmed the presence of uranium at the site.
Sonny Long is a reporter for the Advocate. Contact him at 361-275-6319 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or comment on this story at www.VictoriaAdvocate.com.