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By LeAnn R. Ralph
TOWN OF HOWARD — EOG Resources has started the reclamation process for the S&S frac sand mine in the Town of Howard.
EOG Resources is planning to close the frac sand mine and has started the final rough grading of the mine site to establish the reclaimed land surface, said Dan Masterpole of Chippewa County Land Conservation and Forestry Management in an e-mail message to the Colfax Messenger dated March 4.
The rough grading is nearly complete and should be finished by April 15, he said.
The S&S mine (Robert Schindler and Jeffrey Sikora) is located along county Highway B in the Town of Howard and is 185 acres.
Chippewa County approved the reclamation permit April 29, 2009, for the S&S mine, and it was the first frac sand mine in Chippewa County.
After the final rough grading is completed, EOG Resources plans to systematically replace the available topsoil, install the necessary erosion control practices and seed the site this spring, Masterpole said.
Chippewa County Land Conservation and Forest Management staff will meet with representatives of EOG Resources and Kramer Mining soon to review the plans and the schedule for reclamation work that will take place this spring and this summer, he said.
Susan Haake, Town of Howard clerk, had been contacted by a resident who had observed sand being hauled from the S&S mine.
According to an e-mail message to Haake dated March 2 from David Bokor, plant manager for EOG Resources, Chippewa Falls operations, the sand hauling is part of the reclamation process and is expected to continue until early April.
Currently, five trucks are hauling four days per week, Monday through Thursday, he said.
Haake also received a question from a resident about water samples from wells around the mine site.
Resident water sampling was conducted in 2020 as scheduled, once every three years. All qualified residents were contacted twice to ask for permission to sample their water. The results of the water testing were sent to the resident or landowner and to Chippewa County as part of the company’s annual reclamation reporting, Bokor said.
In view of the progress being made on mine reclamation, EOG Resources does not anticipate that any further water sampling will be conducted, he said.
The water samples were tested for arsenic (parts per billion; ug/Liter), lead (ug/L) and nitrate (milligrams per liter).
None of the 12 water samples were above the Wisconsin NR140 enforcement and health advisory limit for arsenic of 10 ug/L or the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) limit of 10 ug/L, and only two water samples were above the NR140 preventive action limit of 1 ug/L.
The two samples that were above the NR140 preventive action limit for arsenic were 1.5 ug/L in a well for the milking parlor at property owned by Robert Schindler Jr. on Highway B and 1.1 ug/L for a well on property owned by Wayne Schindler on Highway B.
Out of 13 water samples, two were above the limit for lead set by NR140 for enforcement/health advisory and the EPA at 15 ug/L and one was above the NR140 preventive action limit of 1.5 ug/L.
A water sample taken at a well on property owned by Larry Sikora on 52nd street was at 28 ug/L for lead on August 25, 2020. A second sample taken on December 15 tested at 15 ug/L.
Out of 12 water samples tested for nitrate, only one was below the NR140 preventive action limit of 2 mg/L at 1.1 mg/L.
Two of the samples were above the NR140 enforcement/health advisory and the EPA limit for nitrate of 10 mg/L, with a well on property owned by Charles Schindler on Highway B testing at 16.4 mg/L for nitrate and a former shop well on property owned by Robert Schindler Jr. on Highway B testing at 10.4 mg/L for nitrate.
The remaining nitrate results ranged from 3.4 mg/L to 7.5 mg/L.
Drinking water with levels of nitrate at or below 10mg/L is considered safe for everyone.
Water with too much nitrate can impact how blood carries oxygen and cause methemoglobinemia, also known as blue baby syndrome.
Children under six months old who are bottle fed are at the highest risk for developing methemoglobinemia, which can result in the skin turning blue and can cause serious illness or death.
Additional symptoms associated with methemoglobinemia can include a decrease in blood pressure, an increase in heart rate, headache, stomach cramps and vomiting.
Out of the 14 frac sand mines in Chippewa County listed on the Chippewa County Land Conservation and Forestry Management website, in addition to the S&S mine, the 28 acre Boese mine on property owned by Larry Boese has been closed, has completed reclamation, and the county is currently monitoring reclamation success.
Of the remaining 12 frac sand mines, seven of the mines were either “cancelled” or “not opened.”