We love having new jobs come to Chippewa Falls and encourage you to talk with friends and relatives who might be interested in encouraging and developing new business in our city and the surrounding area. However, we do not believe that a mining operation at the northeast part of the city is going to be in the best interests of any of our residents.
EOG has the capacity to clean and process 2.6 million tons of sand per year within the City Limits. Actually the location of the sand plant could be detrimental to the growth of the city! There are so many quality-of-life issues surrounding the building of this plant that we can’t believe anyone will want to move here including other industries. Our City Fathers should be working to encourage new families, retirees with skills to add to the city’s bank of assets, and new people with forward looking and innovative ideas to settle here. They can add much to make this a good place to live, work, and play. It appears that the County, the City and the Chippewa Co. Economic Development Corporation have not adequately projected a well thought-out vision of the future of the city! Who really believes that the concept of a mining operation in our city and county is the best thing since Mom’s homemade apple pie? Our City Council, County Board and State of Wisconsin must take full responsibility for the decision to spread mining operations across such a large area. Instead of creating stable, healthy jobs, the end result could be a net job loss.
Our top reasons for concern about the sand plant and mining operation in Chippewa Falls, the Town of Howard, and other mines planned for Chippewa County and the northwest Wisconsin are:
1) Air quality: We feel the current WI DNR standards for air quality are not adequate. The WI DNR has not established standard air quality levels for respirable crystalline silica even though a study was to have begun in 2006. The study has been undertaken a few months ago with the promise of preliminary results in a little less than one year.
2) The actual toxicity of crystalline silica: According to the World Health Organization there will be 1,000,000 people in the United State who will be exposed to respirable crystalline silica. Of these, 59,000 will eventually develop silicosis. Three hundred people in the United States died of silicosis last year. It is also known that people with silicosis are more likely to develop cancer than people who do not have silicosis.
3) Health effects of fine dust not related to crystalline silica: The New England Journal of Medicine in 2009 showed that reduction of fine particles in the atmosphere caused an increase in life expectancy. People with asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, heart conditions, and others are at risk when breathing crystalline silica into their lungs.
4) Destruction of natural beauty and the disruption caused to people living close to the sand mines.
5) Destruction of wetlands: There will be at least two wetlands destroyed by the construction of the sand plant. The DNR states that one will be mitigated but will not remain here and so will not help recharge the aquifer. The trucking company has purchased land adjacent to the plant. What will keep diesel fuels and fumes out of the remaining wetland areas?
6) Our children’s future: The use of oil and gas will increase atmospheric pollution. Wouldn’t it be better to promote the use of non polluting sources so we don’t leave a toxic legacy to future generations?
7) The use of frac sand for drilling of gas and oil wells currently does not have adequate environmental safeguards: The sand from the hills in this part of the state will be sent all over the country and perhaps the world. It may be coated with a host of toxic chemicals (diesel fuel and other noxious chemicals have been used in some locations) and pumped into the ground under very high pressure to fracture bedrock or shale so as to extract the oil and gas. The problem is the toxic chemicals are getting into the underground water tables. The Halliburton “loophole” allows the company using the chemicals to keep the formula secret. Currently, there have been at least 12 claims of chemicals in water near these drilling sites in the U.S, and a bill has been introduced by Senator Waxman in the US Congress to better monitor these drilling practices. As you can imagine, hydraulic fracturing and mining companies are opposing the bill.
8) We feel monitoring proposed by the DNR at only one site at the sand plant is not adequate to protect against particulate matter.
9) The DNR can model fugitive dust (dust released by the sand piles, trucks, the road, and any source not accounted for by the plant) but they chose not to do so. Had they done so, there is a STRONG possibility that the Sand Plant could not meet air quality standards.
10) There’s a possibility that the night sky will be obliterated by the steam rolling out of the stacks twenty-four hours per day seven days per week with continuous flashing lights. Noise levels will also be a consideration.
11. Rail cars will be coming into the plant and leaving daily. Up to 80 cars will be going through a residential area that has been promised reduced rates of cars to a few a week. Twenty loaded cars are expected to come from Almena to the north and they will return. Think of the noise and the confusion with up to 100 rail cars at this site.
12. The company will be the benefactor of the natural resource taken in the form of sand: There will be little benefit to the citizens and the city except a few jobs (20 for the plant and another 15 if the resin plant is build and running.) The operation of the plant in many ways will be a nuisance in many respects to those who live immediately near the location.
13) The entire area will be impacted upon negatively in terms of home and business values. The City Council and the Plan Commission have made no effort to study the impact on our community financially in terms of property values. Some say this plant will create an improved tax base. If that is the case, the City ought to be able to make a projection on the impact and share it with the entire community, both residential and business, with statistics to prove that this plant will bring in a higher quality of life along with an improved lifestyle.
14. Sandstone bluffs serve as water retainers and gradually release water during times of drought. Our concern is that we won’t have these bluffs and that the lack of them will impact our groundwater levels.