Governor Mark Dayton may have come out against a one-year moratorium on industrial sand mining while a Generic Environmental Impact Statement is conducted, but a story by Stephanie Hemphill at Minnesota Public Radio illustrates why grassroots citizen groups in Southeastern Minnesota are asking for both.
Hemphill writes in EQB report sums up frac sand mining issues:
. . .The EQB is a multi-agency oversight body that received a petition to do an in-depth study of the possible environmental effects of frac sand mining. . . .
That kind of study would take several years and cost a lot of money. In the meantime, the agency has produced a 90-page report that summarizes the issues.
So far the questions outnumber the answers regarding possible impacts on the environment, the economy and local communities, said EQB planner Jeff Smyser.
One of those questions involves a very scary thing: sinkholes. Probably not Florida-scale sinkholes--and the water quality concerns that are related to sinkhole-producing karst geology are a whole lot more vexsome:
The report includes . . .maps of southeastern Minnesota's unusual geology, known as karst geology, where rich deposits of silica sand are found. That makes it tricky to predict underground water flows, Smyser said. The limestone bedrock easily creates sinkholes and causes unpredictable groundwater flows.
"It's kind of difficult to know where the water's going to go, just what effects use of groundwater, discharge of processing water is going to have because of that karst geology out there," he said. "So that's a real tricky question that's real hard to answer at this point."
Check out Hemphill's entire article at MPR.
A number of silica-sand related bills are working their way through the Minnesota legislature. Senator Matt Schmit's SF786 provides for a GEIS and a one-year moratorium; Schmit has also introduced a bill that creates setbacks to protect fish and sensitive natural areas in the driftless region. Rep. Hansen's HF906 creates standard and a technical assistance team team to help local government regulate sand mining; he also has a bill to protect wellheads and natural areas in the region.
Here's the EQB report:
Image: It's karst, it's complex, it's more than just sinkholes. Read more here.
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