Clay Schuldt reports for the Houston County News in Experts detail health, economic impact of sand:
A room full of concerned citizens heard about the potential health and economic impacts of frac sand mining during the second of a series of meetings, sponsored by the Houston County Protectors Jan. 17 at the Four Seasons Community Center in Caledonia.
The evening featured two presenters:
Dr. Wayne Feyereisn from Mayo Clinic and Steven Deller, a professor of agriculture and applied economics at the University of Wisconsin. Feyerseisn addressed the potential health hazard of silica sand dust and acrylamide, which is used in sand processing, while Deller shared an economic perspective on sand mining. . . .
In the United States, there are six states that have published acceptable limits for silica, but Minnesota and Wisconsin do not. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has set the reasonable exposure limits of silica at 500 micrograms. Feyereisn showed a slide depicting 500 micrograms of silica, which was smaller in area than a dime. . . .
“You can’t let the mine (operators) do their own monitoring,” Feyereisn said.
He closed by saying regulation on the state level is needed.
“I think the sand mines should have a monitor for every 1,000 feet of perimeter … and it has to be open to the public,” he said. . . .
Read about the details of Dr. Feyereisn's presentation in the News. Economist Steven Deller talked about the uncertain economic prospects of silica sand mining:
“From an economic perspective, there are some positive things associated with these mines,” he said, “but there are also some negative things.”
Deller said mines are susceptible to a flickering effect. Depending on the price of the commodity being excavated, mines will shut down or restart. Since gas prices are down, he said, the need for sand has dropped, which has slowed down production of mines in Wisconsin and delayed the opening of other mines. . . .
Deller suggested that communities could ask mining companies to contribute to highway trust funds to help maintain roads. In addition, communities should have a plan for after a mine shuts down, which could include reclamation and contingency plans in case the company goes bankrupt. Many of these issues, he said, are negotiated with mining companies in Wisconsin.
He left the crowd with an idea on how to proceed.
“Rather than going to town meetings and county board meetings and saying ‘no,’ go in and say, ‘These are the conditions that we can find this acceptable,’” he said.
Read more about Deller's remarks in the article. WXOW-19 in LacCrosse reports in Frac sand changes in Winona:
Several changes are underway to ordinances related to frac sand operation in Winona.
The first deals with mining operations. They will be moved from 1000 feet to 2000 feet away from a residential district.
Along the same lines, The setback ordinance will change from 200 to 500 feet.
Another change would cut the original 6am to 10 pm operating times to 6am until 9pm.
There's also a change in the moisture testing ordinance amendment, requiring the moisture content of sand to be increased from 1.5% to 2.5%.
And finally, a study will be required to look into the traffic impact of all those trucks. . . .
However, Winona residents don't seem to be finding satisfaction at council meetings, if a report in the Winona Daily News is any barometer. Jerome Christenson reports in Council turns down objection to increase in frac sand barge loading:
The Winona City Council turned down a citizens group’s objection late Tuesday night to increasing frac sand barge loading at the Port Authority dock.
Members of Winona Citizens Against Sand Mining had appealed a December ruling by the city’s Board of Adjustment to increase the number of barges CD Corp. is allowed to load each month, from 24 to 48.
Speaking for CASM, Jane Cowgill told council members the change meant a potential doubling of truck traffic to the Port Authority dock — traffic that could put a semi truck in or out the driveway every three minutes. The resulting increase in noise, diesel exhaust, traffic congestion and silica sand dust would be a detriment to the quality of life enjoyed by city residents and visitors and had not been adequately addressed, she said. . . .
The council voted 6-1 to approve the increase in bargeloads. Up in Red Wing, reader Natasha Yates writes to the Republican-Eagle in Water is paramount in fracking study:
I hope the group working on the environmental study related to the proposed frac sand mine zoning will emphasize the amount of clean/fresh water that the mine will end up using per day/per month/ per year. This cannot be emphasized enough.
According to the WI Department of Natural Resources, “Silica sand mining and processing … expected average water use ranges from 420,500 gallons per day to 2 million gallons per day (292-380 gallons per minute).”
We (all of humanity) are in a fresh water crisis. As you may already be aware only 2.5 percent of our water is fresh water and 79 percent of that is frozen in glaciers. As those glaciers melt, the majority melt into salt water. The Ogallala Aquifer under the Midwest is being drained much faster than it can replenish. . . .
Mining companies will consider it their right to take the water. . . .
Check it all out at the Red Wing paper. The Rochester Post Bulletin's John Weiss reports in Wabasha County silica ordinance might be adjusted:
Wabasha County's proposed update and expansion of its ordinance about mining, moving and processing non-metallic minerals, including silica sand, got mostly minor suggestions for improvements, but no calls for sweeping changes, at Wednesday's public hearing.
About 10 people who spoke were generally in favor of it and some complimented the planning commission for all its work. But each also offered a suggestion or two to make it more precise or add something.
The county began looking at the changes when it realized it had some problems with mining in its zoning for all kinds of mines, said Commission Chairman John Mortenson. As it happens, the silica sand issue also exploded around the same time. The county imposed a moratorium, which ends in August, so it had more time to examine that issue. . . .
Find out more about the changes in the Post Bulletin.
In Mankato, KEYC-TV reports in Frac Sand Review in Lime Township:
Residents of Lime Township get their first full look at a proposed frac sand processing plant.
It was a tough task to take on, as dozens of residents get a crash course in how frac sand is made, also learning about the environmental concerns over this particular process.
Numerous problems were mentioned in the environmental assessment worksheet, or EAW, from water to air to traffic.
The focus however, just may come down to a rare little bird.
Kirsten Pauly, a geologist who gave the presentation of the EAW, says, "The focus of the EAW then becomes the loggerhead shrike."
The DNR's website notes that the loggerhead shrike (which was common on the Kasota prairies when Bluestem's editor was a child) is now a threatened species in Minnesota, although discussion in underway to change that designation to endangered in Minnesota.
KEYC-TV's report continues:
. . . Dean Johnson, a consultant for Lime Township in the process, says, "An EAW has nothing to do with permitting. I know a lot of people that end up coming to meetings like this where there's a presentation about the project, and we encourage to ask questions for clarification about the project, how different elements in it work, how they might affect you. But this environmental review process has nothing to do about the permitting of the project. That's a follow-up step."
A comment period will continue over the course of the next month, as residents and other groups ask questions about the EAW, and Jordan Sands responds.
Then the real battle will take place.
And so it goes.
Photo: Big pile of sand (above); A frac sand mine (below).
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