CHARLESTON -- The Gustavson Operating Company is now beginning the second phase in the search for significant uranium deposits in Mississippi County.
The first phase, which was completed in mid-October, included reviewing and mapping data from National Uranium Resource Evaluation well testing conducted in the late 1970s, according to John Gustavson of the Gustavson Operating Company.
The second phase will consist of retesting some of the wells tested in the '70s along with some of the deep wells, such as municipal and irrigation wells, drilled since then and a number of wells located on participating farmers' lands.
Gustavson said there are about 30 participating landowners representing over 20,000 acres scattered around the county.
"In addition we also have the permission to test new wells down along the setback levee," he said.
Collected data from testing these wells will be used to come up with a picture of the overall water chemistry and groundwater flow in the county to guide the Gustavson Operating Company in the next phase of drilling new and deeper test wells.
The head of the current sampling team, Dr. Van Price, is a chemist who worked on the National Uranium Resource Evaluation well testing project 30 years ago, Gustavson noted.
"At that time I was working at the Savannah River Laboratory," Price said.
Price said he was working for a company that was under contract with the government for the water testing project.
"I was involved in designing those original studies but I didn't spend any time in the field sampling," he recalled. "I trained samplers and helped get all the kinks out of the sampling procedures."
Price arrived in Charleston Friday with plans to begin sampling wells this weekend.
He and his team will be traveling around the county in a 2008 Ford Van with Georgia license plates collecting samples and conducting on-site tests that are time sensitive such as tests for dissolved oxygen and pH levels.
"Those things change shortly after the sample is collected," Price explained. If not tested immediately, "we would not get an accurate picture."
Water samples will then be sent off for further analysis. "We send them to a lab with incredibly low detection limits," Price said.
Today's analysis is more sensitive than those conducted in the '70s and includes looking for 73 different elements.
"We will be happy to send the well owner a copy of the analysis," Price said. He noted, however, that "we're not looking at things like organic contaminants so this is not a typical environmental sampling. It's specialized for uranium detection and pathfinders for uranium."
"We are cooperating closely with the state Department of Natural Resources in Rolla," Gustavson said. "We have offered to provide them with most of the data we get so they can get a better feeling for the groundwater environment. We also have communication with the county health department who are also interested in the quality of the water."
"I hope we get a warm reception from the various water districts," Price said. "We certainly are not going to cause them any harm."
Weather permitting, the company hopes to have results available early next year.