Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Sand mining in Wisconsin also produces pollution, layoffs & litigation

I remember when the Walker-directed WI DNR made sure that frac sand mining got the official shoulder shrug.

Not looking very hard, so DNR doesn't see some airborne mined sand

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, directed by Scott Walker's "chamber of commerce mentality," and intentionally stripped of its science and public-policy mission, has taken a 'nothing-to-see here' approach when assessing health risks posed by the airborne release of very small particles at fast-expanding Wisconsin frac sand mines.
Aerial view of Badger site
Wisconsin DNR photo
Literally nothing to see because the agency chose not to look carefully enough: 
According to the DNR analysis, the primary concern is airborne particles smaller than 10 microns — known as PM10 — rather than the smaller, more dangerous fine particulate matter (PM2.5), which can lodge deep inside human lungs. The DNR says air quality monitors in western Wisconsin have not detected elevated levels of fine particulates... 
And this nothing-to-see approach to sand mining operations goes back at least four-and-a-half years, when then-DNR Deputy Secretary Director Matt Moroney - - formerly an attorney representing the metro Milwaukee building industry and now a special assistant on Gov. Scott Walker's staff - - pooh-poohed, despite criticism, the need for enhanced regulations as the frac sand mining boom was underway: 
The Department of Natural Resources said on Tuesday that it doesn’t plan to issue regulations for crystalline silica in the face of a surge in sand mining in western Wisconsin where the potential threat of silica emissions to public health has become a lightning rod of controversy.
Now the sand mining boom-and-bust cycle is producing the predictable litany of problems Team Walker dismissed or left for others to clean up, including:

* Contamination, litigation: 

Chippewa County Says Bankrupt Frac Sand Mine In Violation Of State, Local Laws 
County Says Superior Silica Sands Hasn't Set Aside Funds For Mine Reclamation Or Installed Required Groundwater Monitoring Wells
* Pollution and official shoulder shrugging:
DNR: No Citation For Sand Mine That Spilled 10M Gallons Of Wastewater During Rescue
State Statute Allows For Wastewater Discharges In Life-Threatening Emergencies
* Oversupply, mine devaluations:
Hard times for Wisconsin sand: Amid flagging sales, Hi-Crush writes off $215M in mine value
Hi-Crush’s Augusta mine has been idle all year, and production has been curtailed at the Whitehall plant. 
U.S. Silica CEO Bryan Shinn told investors he believes Northern White capacity still needs to be cut by about 20 million tons. That’s the equivalent of seven to 10 typical Wisconsin mines. 
* Arsenic, heavy metals in the water
Arsenic Levels At Bankrupt Frac Sand Mine 7 Times Higher Than State Cleanup Standards
DNR Says It Has 'Reasonable Concern' Heavy Metals In Holding Ponds Could Have Impacted Groundwater
More about frac sand mining here from Midwest Environmental Advocates, a public-interest non-profit law firm which addresses a wide range of threats to air, water and land use. 

And here is a link to a 21-part series which addresses many of Walker's ruinous environmental politics.

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