By Kelsie Hoitomt
GLENWOOD CITY — Six short months ago the public was called to attend an informational meeting at Holy Cross Lutheran Church regarding the proposed sand mine in the Town of Glenwood and on Monday, February 18 another meeting was held again.
This meeting was held after Vista Sand, the company proposing the sand mine, refiled their application to St. Croix County. Vista Sand previously withdrew their first permit application in order to revise it to meet certain county standards. Vista Sand has since re-constructed their application and resubmitted it for review by the Board of Adjustment.
The most significant changes that have been made to the application were that the entire mining operation has to be within that 20 acre parcel at one time. This means that roughly 12 acres will be open for mining and the additional eight acres will be where the plant itself will sit. The 12 active mining acres will be progressively reclaimed to agricultural or forested use through the life of the mine, which covers approximately 380 acres of land on the Scott Teigen and Robert Crosby properties.
The second major change to the application is the truck route. Previously this route went East on County Road G, through Downing and parts of Boyceville towards Menomonie.
Now, the planned truck route will go West on County Road G, to Highway 128 and south onto Interstate 94 where the trucks will disperse to their destinations off the interstate. After reaching an agreement with the County, Vista Sand is also planning to pay for certain road upgrades to County Road G.
With the reduced plant size, Vista Sand owner, RJ Sikes thinks there may be a reduction in hauling as well. The application right now states there will be one million tons of sand hauled in a year, but this figure may actually be around 800,000.
Sikes also reiterated in his presentation about trucking that there looks to be around 150-250 trucks going back and forth each day. Vista Sand has been in contact with the Glenwood City School District and the trucking will be limited during school bus hours and when there are special occasions like early releases.
The rest of the two hour long meeting was a recap of what has been said at previous meetings. Questions were addressed about flocculants, fugitive dust, well water and the high capacity well and reclamation.
In attendance at the meeting as a part of the “A-Team” as Sikes called them, were Short Elliott Hendrickson, Inc (SEH) members; Dan Hedrington, Darrell Reed, Phil Newman and Katie Hill-Brandt. Also speaking was University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Geology Professor, Dr. Kent Syverson who was hired by Vista Sand as well.
Dr. Syverson opened the presentation with an explanation on the different layers of rock such as Prairie Du Chien Dolomite and Jordan Sandstone, which he showed as examples of what is in the ground around Glenwood City.
Dr. Syverson explained that the Jordan Sandstone in Wisconsin is of almost perfect quality for fracing due to the round, coarse material, which is why companies like Vista Sand bring their business here.
Reed, who specializes in the water management, re-described the mining operation’s wet process and water needs.
The sand is mined, washed, sorted and placed into stock piles- the sand is moist when it is placed into a stock pile. The excess water drains back towards the wet processing pond as it is a “closed” system and everything is internally drained.
“We don’t want to produce anymore water than we have to so initially the pond will be filled and the water will be drawn from there. Water will be recycled after the solid material is knocked out. The clarifier takes that water with a flocculant added to it, which allows the solid materials to drop to the bottom of the clarifier. Water is then taken out of the slurry and brought back to the system for recycling and the clean water goes back to the wash plant,” explained Reed.
This water would be generated by a high capacity well that would be designed for about 500 gallons per minute (GPM), which is needed for the initial filling of the pond, but this number would be expected to lower to around 80-100 GPM on otherwise day to day use. This high capacity well will also be used in the watering of stock piles, roads and reclaimed vegetation.
Dr. Syverson also explained that high capacity wells are screened in a different unit (rock formation) than where domestic wells are and there is a barrier to prevent disturbance of private wells.
Also, there are currently five monitoring wells on the property that were purchased and put into place last September for around $200,000 by Vista Sand. These wells have been collecting data since they were put into place and the reports are sent to the WI DNR.
As stated, the water will also be used in the reclamation of the land. The reclamation plan will use topsoil from the site to put the land back to forested and agricultural uses. Agricultural areas will use a nutrient management plan.
In the event something happens and Vista Sand pulls out of the operation, there is a phased $9.9 million dollar bounded amount that is set up from the county for projects like this. This money will go specifically towards reclaiming the land.
Air quality and fugitive dust
Hill-Brandt was the air quality specialist that spoke. According to her expertise, the bowl shape mining operation will help protect the fugitive dust from spreading beyond the property boundaries. The natural setting of the hills and the fact that the height of the watered storage pile will be lower than the hills will keep potential dust contained. The slurry system that keeps the sand moist and the watering of the roads and stock piles will help keep dust to minimum as well.
It was also mentioned that Vista Sand has been in contact numerous times with the Glenwood City School District about air quality monitors. The company has said they are willing to work with the school and pay for costs of monitors.
They will also run data checks on fugitive dust periodically for the school to make sure the numbers are at a proper level and no students/staff are at harm; all of this is still currently being worked out with the school’s administration.
If the monitors do find dust that exceeds the standards, several places like the DNR, the City of Glenwood City, St. Croix County and the school district will all be informed.
According to Sikes, this mining operation that is said to last over 20 years, would create 40 jobs at the site itself from maintenance workers, operators, supervisors etc. These jobs at an hourly rate would be paid anywhere from $15-20 and salaried workers could earn between $90,000-125,000 annually on a 40-60 hour per week basis.
Sikes also said that local companies would be brought in on the job as well such as electricians, plumbers, mechanics and those types of businesses associated with starting and maintaining a sand mine. There would be additional people hired for the trucking part of the operation as well.
Sikes is looking to hire locally within the community and bring jobs to people in the area, but will hire outside the area if needed.
When asked about hiring, Sikes addressed the question about job postings and said that he plans to post job positions in the newspaper and there would be a job fair as well. Currently he is the person to speak with about job prospects.
It was asked again what type of flocculant will be used during the washing process. The answer is still a Polyacrylamide flocculant, which is also used in other waste water facilities and drinking water. It would be supplied by Clearwater Industries out of Milwaukee.
Cindy Griffin asked about white noise, lighting at the mining site and blasting. Sikes addressed this and said that there are white noise beepers on the trucks and they will get louder when the truck is too close to an object. As for lighting, the site has to be properly lite due to Mining Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) standards, but the lights will be strategically placed to minimize any issues.
As for the effects of blasting, Sikes said that once the mining operation is under way, there will be monitors set up around the mine site and everything will be videotaped in order to evaluate the effects of the blasts. Any blasting must obey strict state regulations.