In February 2011, the City of Virginia Beach released the findings of Phase I of a study conducted in response to Virginia Uranium Inc.’s plan to develop a uranium mining operation in Pittsylvania County. This area in southwest Virginia is believed to contain a very large untapped deposit of uranium, but the area is also susceptible to heavy rains and flooding. This raises the possibility of radiation flowing into downstream drinking water supplies, including Lake Gaston, which supplies drinking water to Virginia Beach and, indirectly, Chesapeake and Norfolk, if a catastrophic storm were to breach a tailings disposal cell.
Phase II of the study, released in February 2012, expanded on the initial study by incorporating recently published information on the current mining proposal at Coles Hill and extending the study domain through Lake Gaston. Phase II utilized a two-dimensional hydrodynamic model to better understand the impacts on the tributaries of Kerr Reservoir and Lake Gaston, including Pea Hill Creek where the City’s pump station is situated. The study concluded that impacts to the drinking water supplies would be significant but not permanent, after an unlikely worst-case event. Depending on weather conditions, it could take two months to two years to completely flush radioactive contaminants out of Lake Gaston.
Phase III of the study refined aspects of the 2-D modeling performed for Lake Gaston using updated topographic data for the lake and incorporating the effects of wind shear, water level fluctuations, tributary inflow into Pea Hill Creek, and continued operation of the City’s water pump station. The Phase III study showed that water level variations in Lake Gaston would cause contaminants from an upstream mill tailings spill to migrate towards the City’s pump station on Pea Hill Creek even if it is not operated.
The complete reports are available below: