Fairmount Santrol recently completed a study of crystalline silica concentrations in the ambient air in the Menomonie community. The study found that the PM 4 crystalline silica concentrations in the Menomonie area are very low — well within the background concentration range — and are consistent with good air quality.
The sampling program was created in accordance with established U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) sampling principles and procedures, and utilized proven crystalline silica analytical procedures from the National Institute of Occupational Health & Safety (NIOSH).
The data collected show that the Fairmount Santrol industrial sand mining operation in Menomonie doesn’t contribute to PM 4 crystalline silica in the ambient air any more than other sources of PM 4 in the area. A similar study conducted in the community near the Fairmount Santrol mining operation in Maiden Rock, two years ago yielded the same results.
Air Control Techniques, L.C., a company specializing in air emission testing and industrialair pollution control equipment, and prominent expert John Richards, Ph.D., P.E. worked with Fairmount Santrol to design and evaluate the sampling programs. At the conclusion of the comprehensive, year-long studies, Air Control Techniques produced detailed, scientific-based reports.
In the report for the Menomonie study, Richards points out, “The regional background concentrations are due to a variety of well-known sources of ambient PM 4 crystalline silica, including (1) agricultural operations, (2) unpaved roads, (3) construction activity, (4) industrial sources, (5) sand used for road treatment in winter, and (6) the global transport of dust from the Gobi (China) and Saharan (Africa) deserts.”
“We were confident that by carefully controlling exposure of dust within our facilities at the occupational level the community did not face any associated health risks,” says Aaron Scott, Fairmount Santrol regional mine manager. “We are excited that this extensive study demonstrates that our operations do not have a negative impact on air quality. We will continue to manage our operations to minimize the impact to our employees and on the environment and to strengthen our commitment to be a good neighbor within our communities.”
Fairmount Santrol officials note that silica is the name given to a group of minerals composed of silicon and oxygen, the two most abundant elements in the earth’s crust. Mostly found in the crystalline state, it makes up 12 percent of the earth’s crust, and its use is abundant in our society.
Potential overexposures to crystalline silica can occur in mining. The prolonged, excessive exposure to respirable crystalline silica can cause silicosis, a preventable occupational disease that may develop after many years of overexposure in the workplace.
Silicosis, Fairmount Santrol says, is not a concern for consumers or the public who receive only intermittent environmental exposures, such as at the beach, on farms, or from unpaved roads.