By Kelsie Hoitomt
GLENWOOD CITY — The Glenwood City School Board Committee of the Whole met in a special session last Wednesday, February 20 for the purpose of discussing sand mining with local DNR representative John Stoffel.
Stoffel who works out of the Baldwin office, has 24 years of experience and is currently the Air Management Engineer for the WI DNR.
“We are talking about industrial sand mining which has a long history in Wisconsin. Frac sand mining is just a newer use in the industrial sand use timeline, said Stoffel. This Jordan sandstone is currently used to make shingle sand, glass sand, colored play sand, foundry sand and in the last 20 years, a progressively increasing use of the sand for underground fracturing of rocks. This isn’t a new concept, there is just a larger demand and a new customer with the expanded development of horizontal drilling.”
Stoffel spoke on behalf of the research done by Dr. John Richards who is a co-developer of an ambient crystalline silica monitoring technique that meets the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards. He is also the president of Air Control Techniques, P.C. Richards has collected data throughout the state of Wisconsin and across the United States.
Richards’ data has collected samples on PM4. The PM4 is so small that it has to be examined using x-ray diffraction. Dr. Richards is focusing on PM4 in his study as this is the size fraction monitored and studied in occupational exposure sciences for respirable crystalline silica.
Richards’ preliminary data collected from the monitors from Chippewa Falls revealed that the PM4 dust emissions in and around industrial sand mining is very low.
“We won’t know if the dust collected is quartz or organic material for some time yet. We don’t expect a report for at least a year due to all the data analysis that has to occur for every sample collected,” said Stoffel.
The fine materials like the PM4 is typically carried away by the wind for miles. Also, these mines are typically wet processing plants and according to the research, water alleviates at least 50 percent of the emission of the dust and particles are weighed down.
As for monitoring the air around the school district, Stoffel said that monitors can be placed around the school. However, they should meet EPA standards if they are to be of informational value.
“It needs to be understood that those monitors would also pick up emissions from farmers, adjacent roads, traffic and businesses. It is possible the monitors may never detect the mine,” said Stoffel. If you want to monitor what is in the pit and what particles are coming out of it, then your best bet is to put the monitor right near the source.”
Stoffel said that in his opinion, it’s the other nuisances of sand mining like the constant trucking and wearing of the roads that pose the bigger problems.