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Howard resident asks Chippewa County to support study of frac sand mining

By LeAnn R. Ralph

TOWN OF HOWARD  — Ken Schmitt, a Colfax resident in the Town of Howard, has asked the Chippewa County Board to support a study of frac sand mining.

The resolution formally supports a petition drafted by Midwest Environmental Advocates that was presented this past fall to the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board asking for a strategic analysis of industrial frac sand mining in Wisconsin.

In the past five years, the number of industrial frac sand mines in the state has gone from a handful to  well over 100 active sand mines.

So far, no state agency has analyzed the overall effects of a variety of industrial sand mining issues, such as air pollution, or the impact on groundwater, stormwater control or transportation.

The state Department of Natural Resources previously was using a stormwater permit designed for small sand and gravel operations but not intended for large-scale industrial sand mining.

The general stormwater permit has expired, and the DNR is currently in the process of writing a new general permit.

A recent analysis of frac sand mining violations in Wisconsin by The Land Stewardship Project discovered that about half the sand mine companies in operation have violated DNR regulations, have manipulated local government officials or have encouraged conflicts of interest.

The Land Stewardship Project’s analysis also discovered that even after regulatory action by the DNR, court orders and fines, some of the sand mines still failed to come into compliance with state regulations.

The information gained from a strategic analysis of frac sand mining could help local officials make better decisions in dealing with the mines in their jurisdictions, Schmitt said.

The Chippewa County Board of Supervisors’ executive committee considered the resolution at its January 6 meeting, and if the executive committee recommended the resolution, the Chippewa County Board could take action on the resolution at the January 13 meeting.

Schmitt said he has forwarded the resolution to other counties in Wisconsin as well.

A Wood County committee also will be considering the resolution and whether to forward it to the Wood County Board for the January 20 meeting.

Dunn County officials currently are considering whether they want to take any action on the resolution.

Here is the text of the resolution:

“Whereas, frac sand production continues to increase at a rapid pace in Wisconsin; and

“Whereas, the impacts on individuals and communities of the mining, processing and transport of frac sand are steadily increasing; and

“Whereas,the costs and burdens of assessing and addressing the extent of the impacts of the frac sand industry has been shifted to citizens and local governments; and

“Whereas, the potential for harm to public health has been established through work place standards based on sound science and years of experience; and

“Whereas, Midwest Environmental Advocates has drafted and filed a petition with the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board entitled “Petition for a Strategic Analysis of Industrial Sand Mining” to request the Department to “… exercise its discretion under NR 150.10 of the Wisconsin Administrative Code to conduct a strategic analysis of frac sand mining”;

“Now therefore be it resolved by the Chippewa County Board of Supervisors that Chippewa County supports the “Petition for a Strategic Analysis of Industrial Sand Mining” filed with the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board by Midwest Environment Advocates; and

“Be it further resolved, that this resolution be forwarded to the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board and the Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.”

The Chippewa County Board meets at 7 p.m. January 13 in room 302 of the Chippewa County Courthouse, 711 North Bridge Street in Chippewa Falls.