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Panna Maria

      SINCE 1988, when the Panna Maria Concerned Citizens was formed, we have developed a community awareness that the uranium industry is not a benign industry. It does more than tear up the Earth and leave big holes behind. We have slowly brought the community more together in someways...and apart in others. They don’t seem to realize the uranium industry is just short term employment here. In 20 years the uranium will play out, and we are left behind with land, that for all practical purposes, is dead. They don’t understand that whenever you kill the land, sooner or later you’re gonna be killin’ the people that’s around the land. So, we are trying to find out what the potential damage to this area is, and who is responsible.
      I talked with Chevron’s lobbyist in Austin, and asked if they would sit down with us and talk about restriction on their license. He said yes. We had a rough and rocky start at first, but I felt we were able to get something accomplished.
      Chevron agreed not to take waste other than uranium mill tailing ore such as the black acid they were bringing in on their rail spur. They agreed to put in more air monitors around the site and to drill more water monitoring wells. They brought in an hydrologist to look into the seepage at the southwest corner of the tailings pond. At the relicensing hearing they acknowledged there was a problem with seepage and that there should be ways to find a solution.
      Other things we did...we got the Texas Department of Health to test all of the water wells in the area to establish background levels of radioactivity, heavy metals and solvents in order to have a baseline from which to compare in future years. We also asked for similar testing on the air and surrounding vegetation, and we got them to control the stench from that pond.
      We were very instrumental in lobbying legislators to get this chromosomal aberration study done in order to find out the effects of long term exposure to low dosages of radiation. And we have really quieted down in the past year because of the study. We want it to be an unbiased study, not wanting anyone to refuse to participate because they thought we were associated with it. There are some people who would make that connection, and would not participate because they think we would want to shut this plant down and their sons, brothers, cousins, and nephews and nieces would not have a place to work.
      If there is a negative determination from this health study, and I dearly hope everything is fine, I think you will see greater support for Panna Maria Concerned Citizens. Perhaps the mill would have to be shut down. People, yes, would lose their jobs, and that’s something we don’t want, but you can always find another job; you can’t go out and find another life.