By Alix Hines
Capital News Service
RICHMOND – As a freshman at George Mason University in Fairfax, Samantha Parsons became involved in the campus’ Environmental Action Group because she’s always cared about the environment.
Originally from the Pittsylvania County town of Hurt (population 1,300), Parsons immediately noticed that the group hadn’t discussed an issue so close to her loved ones at home in Southside Virginia: uranium mining.
Eventually she formed a group that focused solely on uranium mining. Parsons said she went to work researching whether a radiation leak from mining operations could contaminate water supplies.
“In November, we actually went to a meeting of the governor’s working group on the issue, and I spoke there. When people came up and talked to us, a lot of people had never even heard of the issue, so we explained the pros and cons,” Parsons said.
At George Mason, Parsons handed out pamphlets and urged other students to sign a petition to keep the state’s ban on uranium mining. She was often asked why some people living in Southside support uranium mining despite the potentially harmful environmental effects.
Coming from Southside, Parsons said she explained the economic impact that the mining operation could have on the area, where unemployment is almost twice the statewide average.
While a mine might create jobs, they would be temporary, Parsons said.
“Once it runs out, those people are going to be out of jobs. It’s not going to last forever,” she said. “Once the mine is completely mined, they’re out of a job.”
Although lifting the ban on uranium mining could boost employment, Parsons said she fears the environmental risks.
“When it comes to the environment, my biggest concern is the radiation that comes with the milling of the uranium. And when that happens, radiation is leaked into the ground water and the ground itself,” Parsons said.
Parsons is a conflict analysis and resolution major at George Mason. She hopes to continue addressing environmental issues with the student body there and raising awareness through social media.
On the Web
Virginia Uranium Inc. has posted economic statistics about the benefits of uranium mining at www.virginiauranium.com
An environmental coalition called Keep The Ban has information about the health and economic risks of uranium mining at http://keeptheban.org