According to a statement emailed to the Advance-Guard by Jennah Durant of the EPA's Region 6 office, "EPA is partially reaffirming approval of an aquifer exemption submitted by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) for Uranium Energy Corp. (UEC) to carry out in-situ leach uranium mining in part of the Goliad Aquifer in Goliad County, Texas. EPA is withdrawing approval of a portion of the exemption because there is insufficient data north of the Northwest Fault to determine whether the area is serving as a current source of drinking water."
The Advance-Guard obtained a letter written to the TCEQ by William K. Honker, EPA Region 6 Water Quality Protection Division Director, explaining the EPA's decision.
In his letter dated June 17, Honker wrote, "A thorough review of the public comments raised uncertainty regarding the quality of existing water level data, as well as the accuracy of the original methods used to survey existing wells. As a result of these concerns, on March 24 and 25, 2014, EPA traveled to Goliad, Texas, to witness the acquisition of additional survey data. Following the re-surveying of existing wells by a state licensed and certified surveyor, UEC collected a new set of fluid level measurements with EPA witnesses. Using the data acquired from the March 2014 field excursion, EPA made additional contour maps for comparison to previously existing contour maps and data sets.
"In the area of the Goliad aquifer exemption, there are two near-parallel faults (the Northwest Fault and the Southeast Fault), which are almost vertical in orientation, and trend in an approximate southwest to northeast direction. The two fault planes place the majority of the requested Goliad aquifer exemption area within a geologic feature known as a graben, a land mass between the faults that has dropped over time. Based on the prior information available to EPA, the analysis of the March 2014 data set, and additional data received during public comment period, EPA is.reaffirming its original interpretation of a general west to east ground water flow direction with localized variations within the graben.
"Moreover, EPA believes there is sufficient geologic data and ground water elevation data to characterize the ground water flow direction in the graben. The March 2014 data reinforces EPA's December 2012 conclusion that the capture zones of nearby drinking water wells do not intersect the exemption area within the graben. As such, EPA is reaffimting its approval of an aquifer exemption under the criteria provided in Title 40ofthe Code of Federal Regulations (C.F.R.) § 146.4 for the previously exempted area within the graben. However, for the previously exempted area north of the Northwest Fault outside the graben, EPA is withdrawing its approval of that portion of the aquifer exemption."
The EPA approved the exemption on Dec. 4, 2012 before revisiting its decision as a result of petitions filed by concerned citizens. Houston attorney Jim Blackburn filed a lawsuit with the 5th Circuit of Appeals protesting the EPA's decision.
In April, the EPA was granted a 60-day extension by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals to review information and determine the future of uranium mining in Goliad County.
The EPA was granted a remand by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in January to review new information from the public on the in-situ uranium mining in Goliad County and review its original grant of an aquifer exemption to Uranium Energy Corp.
More on this story coming to mySouTex.com.