About a week ago, I received a flier in the mail about frac sand mining, paid for by the Glen Hills Concerned Citizens. Since my name; as a council member; was listed as a resource, I decided to use my research to expand on some of the information given in that flier.
Trucking – The flier stated it will take 2,160,000 semis to carry 27,000,000 tons of silica, taking 228 trips per day. My understanding of what Vista is planning, is moving 750,000 tons of silica a year. Mathematically this works out to 22,500,000 tons in 30 years. The trucking will be for 8 months a year, as the time between November and March mining will be limited. You will recall, that this frac mine will be a washing mine. Consequently, winter will not be conductive to that process. So again, mathematically, trucking for 8 months, 30 days in a month, at 25 tons a load, it will take about 125 trips, daily, to move the silica.
Violations – Yes, the Dunn County News did say that nearly 1/5 of Wisconsin Frac Mines were cited for violations. So, out of the 70 active frac mines, 15 were cited. These mine citations ranged from incorrect paperwork to serious matters. However, the article also stated that “sometimes, it’s just growing pains from an industry. Usually once we catch them, they are corrected and we’re done.” I am personally glad that wrongdoings of these mines were cited because those issues can now be resolved.
Financials/Tradeoffs – The average household income in Glenwood City is $36,070. Vista would pay their employees for those 8 months, $43,000, plus health insurance. Vista Sand will make money. Americans have a wonderful right called free enterprise, including Vista. On a personal note, it would be beneficial to offer decent wages to the good citizens of Glenwood City allowing them to work in their own community.
Dust/air/noise – The flier discussed crystalline silica which can cause silicosis, a potentially deadly disease. However, what the flier did not say is that crystalline silica is caused by the crushing of sand grains (most common in sandblasting operations). Since frac sand is only usable when it is in its round form for oil/gas drilling operations, crushing does not happen. The mine will be digging, washing, sorting, storing and transporting sand – not crushing. One needs to remember that crystalline silica is found everywhere in nature at safe levels. Where you are sitting right now, you are breathing it. The Chippewa Falls mine’s air monitors, I understand, has never exceeded the natural level. The flier also discussed wind and dry conditions causing micro-dust levels exceeding safety standards. The mine’s berm will be placed on the northeast side of the mine – this will help stop wind from the west. There also will be a man-made bowl shape area for the mine itself as a wind barrier (soil from this excavation will be used to make the berm.) Another very important precaution is continually watering down the sand. Natural vegetation, such as trees, will also block the wind. Noise levels for areas outside of the mine’s boundary, according to the Glenwood City non-metallic mining ordinance; which is not yet completed, suggests 60 decibels. This is no louder than a normal conversation.
Property values – The flier mentions a drop in property values. My understanding is that Vista is negotiating the guarantee of property market value for select properties. I called a realtor in New Auburn, as that village has frac sand mining, about home values. He, in his opinion, told me that New Auburn was booming. He was thrilled that the mine had built 2 – $90,000,000 plants which added $180,000,000 to their tax base.
Downing – The concerns of Downing are shared by the committee and the city. Most of their concerns have already been addressed.
The intent of this letter is to inform, not scare, Glenwood City residents.