St. Croix BOA approves mining into the groundwater at Wilson quarry

By LeAnn R. Ralph

HUDSON —  The St. Croix County Zoning Board of Adjustment has approved an amendment to the Milestone Materials special exception permit to mine into the groundwater at the Wilson quarry in the Town of Springfield.

The Board of Adjustment held a public hearing on the proposal January 31, and about 20 people attended the hearing.

Milestone Materials, a subsidiary of Mathy Construction, is planning to mine frac sand out of the Wilson quarry.

The 146-acre limestone quarry has been idle for more than ten years, and residents living near the quarry were dismayed to discover that Milestone is planning to haul up to 200 truckloads of sand per day.

The Wilson quarry is located along U.S. Highway 12 not far from the border with Dunn County.

In addition to the truck traffic, residents in the area are concerned about their wells, groundwater contamination and the impact on Wilson Creek, which runs through the mine site.

Nearby residents are worried about their property values as well.

In July of 2011, Milestone Materials received a conditional use permit from the St. Croix County Board of Adjustment to allow the company to mine within five feet of the groundwater.

“Operating in the groundwater is a serious and contentious issue,” acknowledged Tony Tomasheck, vice-president of Milestone Materials.

Milestone also has switched to mining frac sand from the company’s limestone quarry near Downing.

Big surprise

Dan Janke lives close to the quarry and said he was concerned about the water table dropping and about the value of his property.

“It’s a beautiful area. I can’t see how property values will not fall. People will avoid the area,” he said.

Tim Mittelstadt lives a quarter of a mile from the quarry and said he was concerned about Wilson Creek and its status as a trout stream.

Mittelstadt said he, too, was concerned about the value of his property.

Gary Kasprzak lives across the road from the quarry and said he was alarmed by how much progress Milestone had made toward their plans to mine frac sand with no notification to the neighbors in the area.

“They put a plan in place without notifying the neighbors,” he said, noting that he purchased his farm in 1996.

The closest residence is 900 feet from the mine, and Kasprzak said he owns a building site right next to the closest residence and was never notified of the Milestone Materials plan to mine frac sand or to mine into the groundwater.

“This was all a big surprise,” he said.

The area is “breathtakingly gorgeous … No doubt it is one of the prettiest spots in St. Croix County,” Kasprzak said.

The Wilson frac sand mine will generate between 150 and 200 truckloads of sand per day — 300 to 400 truck trips total coming and going — or one truck every few minutes, he said.

Kasprzak said he was especially concerned about the combined effects of truck traffic from the Wilson quarry, the Milestone Materials quarry near Downing and the other sand mine near Glenwood City proposed by Vista Sand.

Kasprzak noted that several other nearby property owners had come to the public hearing but had to leave for work before they could testify.

None of the property owners who left the meeting were notified of the Milestone Materials proposal, he said.

Groundwater

Milestone Materials began working on groundwater models in July of 2011, Tomasheck said.

The company hired Dr. John R. Tinker, Jr., PhD, a Wisconsin professional geologist, a consulting hydrologist and a retired professor from UW-Eau Claire.

The groundwater in the area flows to Wilson Creek, and the aquifer supplying the area flows from north of Elmwood to south of the Village of Wilson, Dr. Tinker said.

The water takes 20 years to move from the “capture zone” to wells in the area, and the capture zone extends away from the Wilson quarry and not into or toward the quarry, he said.

Milestone Materials will use the groundwater to wash the sand and will create a series of ponds that will move as the active mine site moves. When the mine is closed, a four-acre pond about 40 feet deep will remain.

The company plans to do continuous reclamation and will reclaim the dredge ponds when moving to a new pond.

The Milestone operation will result in the groundwater decreasing by 3.5 feet at the closest private water supply, Dr. Tinker said.

The average depth of wells in the area is 67 feet with a range of from 30 feet to 125 feet, he noted.

It was not clear from the discussion how many feet of water exist in the wells.

Dr. Tinker concluded that the mining operation would result in no permanent change to the water table, no permanent changes in water available for residential wells and no adverse effects on Wilson Creek.

The mining operation will not use any flocculants to settle the fines out of the sand and will employ a closed loop system to reuse the water.

No chemicals will be stored on site except for substances necessary to operate the mine, such as oil and diesel fuel, which would be similar to farming operations in the area.

Three monitoring wells were installed on site in August of 2011.

Mining into the groundwater will have no impact on the Village of Wilson and little impact on the neighbors, Tomasheck said.

The mining operation will result in “no permanent lowering of the groundwater quantity or quality … (the proposal) meets the criteria of the St. Croix County groundwater protection ordinance,” he said.

Conditions

The public hearing that included the Milestone Materials presentation and testimony from concerned citizens lasted until nearly 1 p.m.

Board of Adjustment members then drove out to the mine site near Wilson, and upon their return at mid-afternoon, spent the next several hours discussing conditions for the Milestone Materials proposal.

C.W. (Buck) Malick, chair of the St. Croix County Zoning Board of Adjustment, indicated that he was not entirely confident that the groundwater models were accurate and that the mining operation would have no permanent effect on the groundwater, nearby wells or on Wilson Creek.

The list of more than 30 conditions approved by the Board of Adjustment included:

• Changing the hours of operation from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday to 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Additional hours can be requested from the zoning administrator.

• Milestone Materials will pay for the cost of county inspections.

• Three additional monitoring wells will be installed at the mine site.

• An updated groundwater flow model shall be submitted as part of Milestone’s annual report.

• Property owners within 1,200 feet of the quarry will be offered a pre-operation well evaluation by a licensed well driller paid for by Milestone Materials.

• Property owners within a half a mile of the mine, excluding the Village of Wilson, can request a well evaluation that would be paid for by Milestone Material.  Malick noted that the half-mile limit would extend to some property owners in Dunn County.

• A deed restriction shall be recorded prohibiting conventional agriculture as a post-mining land use.

• The active mining area will not exceed 20 acres for more than 60 days.

• Milestone Materials will submit an annual report by February 28 of each year.

• The Board of Adjustment will review the special exception in March of 2014.

Malick said that the review of the Milestone special exception next year will not be a public hearing but that the public is welcome to comment on the mining operation.

Reviewing the mining operation after the annual reports are submitted will ensure that the Board of Adjustment can monitor any changes to the quantity and quality of the groundwater and can monitor any impact on Wilson Creek, Malick said.