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What follows is the story of how a Mining Company moved in to a small town, and in our opinion decimated our AIR, WATER, ROADS, and PROPERTY VALUES. HYDRAULIC FRACTURING, or FRACKING is the process of pumping a slurry of water, chemicals and Silica Sand into the earth under high pressure to extract Natural Gas from Shale. See FRACKING Video . ( Fracking is like a high pressure ENEMA with highly toxic substances that bursts open the guts of the earth destroying the inner barriers and allowing oil, gas and water to mix and contaminate each other.) See Water Contamination Video.
Northwest Wisconsin’s rolling hills are sandstone hills, containing the kind of sand used in hydraulic fracturing. Just as mountain top removal for coal has devastated the coal region, many here fear that hill top removal for frac sand will devastate this beautiful region. Canadian Sand and Proppants, Inc. (CSP) (now owned by EOG) is only one of many mining companies seeking to remove the hills of Wisconsin to get access to the frac sand. Canadian Sand and Proppants Inc. worked for many months in secret with our city and county officials to pave the way for a Silica Sand Processing Plant in Chippewa Falls. Small notices of annexation and rezoning were published in the Chippewa Herald, but there was no end user named and no mention of SAND.
When some citizens did find out about the Sand Plant, a group called Concerned Chippewa Citizens was formed to head off the devastation of our rural economy, family farms, small businesses, property values, health, safety, and quality of life. We have discovered that the negative aspects of this project have been and continue to be seriously understated. Too many citizens still know nothing of the downsides of this plant and the area mines that will supply this SILICA SAND to the Plant. Concerned Chippewa Citizens urges you to spend some time on this site where we have assembled information that we believe outlines this threat, not only to our Chippewa Falls, but to all of upper Wisconsin.
Recently, CCC has merged with other groups in this part of Wisconsin to become Save the Hills Alliance, Inc. Other groups include Loyalty to Our Land from the Town of Howard, Save Our Hills from the Menomonie area as well as others who haven’t formally organized their citizens. EOG is in the process of constructing a giant processing plant in the Northeast corner of the City of Chippewa Falls, covering nearly 100 acres of former farmland and destroying existing wetlands at the site. This land is right next to many homes, and just upwind of health clinics, schools, daycare, and a vet clinic. Using Highway S, EOG plans to transport 2.6 million tons of sand per year into the city plant from distant quarries for processing. The plant itself will have 5 stacks, two will be 51 feet high, and three will be 96 feet high.
The AIR QUALITY PERMIT, granted to CSP (and transferred without change to EOG) by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) regulates what can come out of those stacks. ….HOWEVER, unlike other industries that have to count ALL the pollution they put in the air, Mining gets a special “free pass” on much of the dust pollution they put in the air. For example, they don’t have to count the dust that will come off storage piles of sand. These piles will total 5 acres piled 70 -90 feet high! Sand dust will also come off of the trucks as they travel on Hwy S and as they enter and leave the plant as many as 500 times per day. Dust produced at the mines sites by blasting apart the hills, and digging 100 foot deep quarries is also dust EOG doesn’t have to count. Their permit states: While the facility has the potential to emit substantial amounts of fugitive emissions, the fugitive emissions of a stationary source may not be considered in determining whether it is a major source. In other words THEY DON”T COUNT FUGITIVES. FUGITIVE DUST comes from ALL ACTIVITIES at the mine sites, along the entire haul routes, and from the giant storage piles at the sand plant site. Remember, wind can carry fine particles hundreds of miles from their source! You can see this dust blowing off the Menomonie Sand Plant site even though their watering system is in operation now. The Menomonie sand piles are protected from prevailing winds by the mine face. EOG’s huge surge piles, having been moved from the mine site, will have no such protection. Internal DNR E-Mails INDICATE that, if they counted fugitives, EOG would probably not meet air quality standards. What’s wrong with dust? Mining dust contains many sizes of particulate matter. The bigger sizes that you see are a nuisance that makes the air hazier and can settle on homes, cars, and plants. The smaller sizes that you can’t see are the real health hazard. Those sizes are breathed deep into the lungs. Freshly mined Wisconsin sand contains an extra harmful kind of dust called Silica Dust. MORE particulate matter in the air lowers life expectancy, and LESS particulate matter extends life expectancy. The FUGITIVE DUST will be a major threat. The fugitives contain the most dangerous freshly mined and fractured respirable crystalline silica in the smaller size particles that are harmful to our health. Most mining facilities do their mining and their processing all at one remote site, with large buffer zones between them and people who could be harmed by their dust. EOG, with the help of City and County officials, will spread their harmful dust from many mine sites, along truck routes, and into the city for everyone to breathe.
A logical placement of electronic monitors upwind and downwind of the plant would allow a determination of how much dust is being emitted, but EOG has fought that off, and they have now agreed to place just one monitor as per DNR direction. Apparently this single monitor will be on the side of the site toward the closest residential district, instead of being on the downwind side of the plant during prevailing winds, so it will not on average measure peak emitted particles except when the wind happens to be blowing from the East. Even if this monitor does report that Air Pollution limits have been exceeded, all that is required from EOG is that they file a report! No Plant shut down, no immediate fine, no remedial action! What’s the point? To encourage local and distant citizen awareness of existing particle pollution levels, I (Hank), have installed three Laser Air Particulate Monitors SE of the proposed plant site. You can view the particulate counts on this web site under “Air Monitors” in the index. Our City Council and Planning Commission are expediting the construction of this huge processing plant. EOG received Tax Incremental Financing. It is a sweetheart tax break that is supposed to benefit the city long term. Many TIF’s fail, leaving the taxpayer holding the bill. Also, rarely are the true costs to taxpayers subtracted from the anticipated benefits. Chippewa Falls already has at least one failed TIF. Anyone with an interest in understanding how TIF deals hurt communities could read, “No More Secret Candystore.” “It’s a really good deal, for EOG. For more on TIF’s click here.
Neither the City or the County has asked EOG to pay a “sand tax” like most mining communities do. One has to wonder why. Even more of our tax dollars will be spent to upgrade the rail system in Chippewa and Barron counties, including the bridge that spans the Chippewa River to the South. EOG looks to be the main beneficiary of these expenditures. EOG’s increased truck traffic, carrying tons of sand on our county roads will increase the rate of damage to the roads, and we pay for their repair also. Increased truck traffic means more accidents, and more SEVERE accidents. Studies also show that homes near mining operations DROP IN VALUE. With operations spread across the County, expect lowered home values, assuming you can even sell a home next to mines and processing plants. At 2.6 million tons per year, more than 208 billion pounds of earth will be disrupted and removed over the lifetime of the mines – threatening food producing soil, local family farms, trees, plants, wildlife habitat and water resources, and flattening the landscape forever.
For the claimed benefit of 20 to 35 local jobs, does EOG. have the right to dump this toxic garbage on us and our downwind neighbors? Where will that dust go if there is no wind, or when the wind blows towards your house, your school, or into the city proper? Then there is the Diesel Exhaust pollution from the 500 to 600 truck trips which might be of much more serious concern. Do check out the AIR QUALITY issues. How clean is our air in Wisconsin right now? Do look at the Air Particulate Count in Chippewa measured by private monitors displayed on this site. How much dust do you have to breathe to get Silicosisof the lungs? How dangerous is Diesel Exhaust to our children and to us.