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By LeAnn R. Ralph
COLFAX — The proliferation of frac sand mines in this area over the past 10 years has caused concern about the health effects of airborne respirable crystalline silica.
A program that is free and open to the public at the Colfax Municipal Building’s Cozy Theatre March 30 will focus on respirable crystalline silica and will include data from air monitoring conducted around local frac sand mines by Dr. Crispin Pierce, UW-Eau Claire professor of Environmental Public Health, and his students.
Crystalline silica is present in sand, sandstone and granite.
When respirable crystalline silica dust becomes airborne, it can enter the lungs and scratch the lung tissue, causing scarring that blocks oxygen absorption.
The program at the municipal building auditorium will include information about health issues resulting from a lack of regulation on airborne crystalline silica dust (PM2.5).
The program also will include a Frontline documentary about people with advanced pulmonary disease caused by inhaling silica dust.
A number of frac sand mines have been developed in western Chippewa County within the past 10 years, and the Howard Town Board has approved a mine operator’s license for the 1,300 acre Albertville Valley sand mine southeast of Colfax along the Dunn County and Chippewa County border.
Frac sand mined in Wisconsin is used to boost oil well and natural gas production in Texas and other states.
Dr. Pierce and his students tested the air quality around frac sand mines and compared it to the base air quality testing site in the area established by the state Department of Natural Resources.
The crystalline silica program in the municipal building auditorium is sponsored by the Save the Hills Alliance, a non-profit organization with a “mission to protect the natural environment and the long-term health and safety of the community by promoting the ecologically sound use of land and natural resources through public awareness, education and advocacy.”
The program begins at 2 p.m. Saturday, March 30, at the Colfax Municipal Building’s Cozy Theatre.
An intermission with refreshments at 2:45 p.m. will occur between the Frontline documentary and the presentation of local air monitoring data.