Sand mine hearing sparks concerns over groundwater

2011-05-13T06:00:00Z Sand mine hearing sparks concerns over groundwaterBy ROD STETZER | Chippewa Herald

Barb Arendt said she’s concerned about the water quality in the area if Preferred Sands goes ahead with its plan to mine sand in the town of Cooks Valley.

Arendt said a groundwater monitoring system should be implemented with the mine, calling it key once the company starts mining what it calls its fifth and sixth cell of the 225-acre site.

She also worried that unexploded blasting agents, which are fertilizer based, could get into the several water ponds at the site. “It would be almost like dumping nitrates into the water table,” she said.

The Bloomer woman was one of four people who testified Wednesday evening at a hearing on the company’s reclamation plan for its sand mine. The hearing at the county courthouse by the county’s Department of Land Conservation and Forest Management drew about 25 people.

Paul McLean, vice president of Preferred Sands, attended but did not speak at the hearing.

The county department will decide within 60 days whether to issue a reclamation permit to the company, which has offices in Genoa, Neb. and Conshohocken, Pa.

The department can decide to approve a permit, approve it with conditions or deny it, said Dan Masterpole, county conservationist. If the company’s plans meet state standards, Masterpole said his department is obligated to issue the reclamation permit.

Preferred Sands was rebuffed twice by the city of Bloomer in its attempt to have a processing plant in a city industrial park. It is now proposing having the plant in the town of Bloomer.

The company is one of four that plan to mine or process sand or both in the county. The others include Chippewa Sand Co., EOG Resources, Inc. and Superior Silica Sand.

The latter company plans on having a mine in Barron County and a processing plant in New Auburn.

No hearing will be held for the Chippewa Sand project because none was requested by adjoining property owners by a time period set by the state.

EOG has already gone through the licensing procedure.

Sand found in Chippewa County is valued by companies because, after processing, it can be used in a process to improve the extraction of oil and natural gas from wells.

Dave Nashold, senior environmental engineer for the Land Conservation Department, said the Preferred Sands mine would border 186th Avenue and County A, with the entrance on 186th Avenue. “Traffic and equipment will enter from the north,” he said.

He said the company’s mining would have a maximum depth of 180 feet. He said there would be 10 feet between the water table and the maximum floor of excavation.

Each of the six cells on the mining site would have a pond, along with four high-capacity wells.

The mined sand would be washed at the site and then trucked to the processing plant, where it would be dried.

If a permit is granted, it would be for the life of the mine, he said.

Rosemary Gehring, who lives on 186th Avenue in rural Bloomer, also worried about how the mine would affect the area’s water.

“The excess withdrawal of water will surely impact our area,” she said, adding there are wetlands and trout streams in the area.

She said if there is no guarantee what she called the massive project won’t affect neighbors, then the project should be massively modified.

Dale McGraw of Chippewa Falls called for a monthly inspection of the mining sites.

“These clay-line ponds will leak,” he said.

Patricia Popple of Chippewa Falls, a frequent critic of sand mining, said it’s important for the county’s Land Conservation Department knows state-of-the-art procedures at sand mines.

She said additional personnel should be added, and paid for by the mining operations.

She called for safer alternatives in how the mining companies clean the sand, and said it is crucial for the county department to get the mining companies’ rationale on the amount of water they will need.

Copyright 2015 Chippewa Herald. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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