New mines for a special type of sand used in hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) extraction of natural gas are coming to the banks of the St. Croix River.
Concerned citizens are organizing an informational session in St. Croix Falls on May 6 to educate their neighbors and organize action to ensure the river and the surrounding area are protected.
The sand, fine-grained silica deposited by glaciers, is valuable for use in the growing fracking industry, which uses pressurized water and chemicals to break apart shale deep in the earth and release the valuable gas contained within.
The issue recently became contentious along the Mississippi River, near Winona, Minn. After much debate, Winona and other communities have passed one-year moratoriums on new frac sand mines until residents and officials could learn more about it. Minnesota Public Radio has produced a “primer” about the issue which explains more of the latest developments, the benefits, and the risks to the environment and communities.
A story published last year by the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism illustrated the types of impacts the mines have had on nearby residents elsewhere in the state:
The DNR currently requires air monitoring for some sand mining operations, but most companies ask for and are granted a variance to bypass the requirement, says Jeffery Johnson, a DNR environmental engineering supervisor. He knows of just one frac-sand processing plant that has been denied a waiver — EOG Resources of Houston, Texas. The company has been required to install a monitor for particulate matter because of concerns from neighbors of its Chippewa Falls plant.
Even then, the monitors do not detect the size of particles of most concern to people like Pierce. The DNR requires monitoring for large particles but says it lacks the expertise and resources to monitor for smaller particles commonly produced by frac-sand mining and processing. Pierce believes the DNR should develop a standard for safe exposure to silica that it can monitor.
In December, the state DNR confirmed there are potential risks from crystalline silica. But in a draft report, the agency recommended no additional regulation, in part because little is known about the how much crystalline silica escapes from these mining operations. Continue reading…
The St. Croix Scenic Coalition provided the following information about its upcoming event:
May 6, 2012 – 1 to 4 p.m.
St. Croix Falls Public Library
230 S. Washington St., St. Croix Falls, WI
A panel of experts will explain what frac sand is, how it is used, where it is found in the Valley and nearby in Minn/Wis, how it is mined, and the potential impacts of industrial scale mining on water and air quality, noise pollution, roads/traffic, valley and bluff land scenery, and the quality of life in the St. Croix River Valley.
Admission is free but registration is strongly encouraged at conference@
Sand mining near the St. Croix
Map of Grantsburg mine
View Frac Sand Mine near the St. Croix River in a larger map