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This website is managed by a group of citizens in Houston County, Minnesota who are concerned about industrial scale sand mining in our region. Based on records received from the Houston County Zoning and Planning Department, this is the Bonanza Grain Inc.
Crawford Stewardship Project works to protect the environment of Crawford county and neighboring regions from threats of polluting and extractive industries, to promote sustainable land use, environmental justice, and local control of natural resources.
This purpose of this website is to bring to light safety issues related to DOT-111 rail cars. The Land Stewardship Project wants more successful stewardship farmers raising both livestock and crops on the land. Winneshiek County Protectors are committed to protecting the natural resources of Iowa’s picturesque bluff country, preserving our county’s infrastructure, fostering Winneshiek County’s thriving tourism industry, and pursuing a fact-based approach to decisions related to local resources. Scenic state highway 16 has a new neighbor, Minnesota Sands LLC has leased the existing sand mine on Tracie and Michelle Erickson’s property at 23148 State 16 and plans to haul out two million cubic yards of sand before year-end. Talk to your families, friends, neighbors, and co-workers about industrial scale mining in Houston County.
Environmental Health and Safety Manager Duane Wilke said he has a vested interest in making sure the Superior Silica sand processing plant in New Auburn keeps the dust down: his 15-year-old daughter. NEW AUBURN — Frances Sayles is cleaning her counters and vacuuming her home more often in an attempt to keep a never-ending stream of sand at bay. The state has at least 115 permitted or operational frac sand mines and processing plants, according to a tally by the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism. Like some other west-central Wisconsin residents, the Sayles are frustrated with the state Department of Natural Resources’ lack of a comprehensive approach to addressing concerns surrounding potential health problems from crystalline silica dust. Now some residents, academics, local government officials and even a frac sand producer have begun taking action.
Tegan Wendland reports for Wisconsin Public Radio that in light of growing citizen concern, State Senator Kathleen Vinehout and State Representative Chris Danou are working on legislation this session to increase funding and staffing for the DNR. See the Center’s frac sand project page, including a map of Wisconsin frac sand facilities.
In New Auburn, the village’s preschool through grade-12 school recently upgraded its air filters as a precautionary measure after residents expressed concern about fine crystalline silica dust, which is known to cause serious health problems in workers. Trempealeau County, in western Wisconsin, recently voted to temporarily halt permitting of additional frac sand facilities so it could study potential health effects.
The DNR and state Department of Health Services say they lack the resources to find definitive answers. In August 2011, the DNR surveyed existing research and other states’ actions to mitigate health effects of crystalline silica exposure. Since then, Johnson said, he is unaware of any comprehensive Wisconsin study on exposure to respirable crystalline silica.
Decades of research in worker populations has proven the serious health hazards of inhaling fine crystalline silica particles in high levels over long periods of time.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health notes that occupational exposure to respirable crystalline silica is linked to silicosis — an incurable lung disease — in addition to lung cancer, pulmonary tuberculosis and airway diseases.


At the end of August, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration proposed lowering the exposure limit for crystalline silica in the workplace to prevent silicosis. And while studies in workers do not necessarily predict effects on the broader population, the neighboring state of Minnesota used those data to set a guideline for respirable crystalline silica exposure outside the workplace to protect human health.
Using occupational studies to help set exposure guidelines for the general population is not unusual, according to James Kelly, a manager in the Minnesota Department of Health’s Environmental Health Division, who supervises the group that developed the state’s guideline. Minnesota’s Department of Health established a guideline in July 2013 that recommends exposure no higher than 3 micrograms per cubic meter of particulates 4 micrometers in diameter or less, so-called PM4, the size that worries health experts.
In September, the National Institutes of Health approved a grant that would provide almost $125,000 for the University of Iowa to study the impact of mines on respirable crystalline silica levels in nearby communities and report those findings to the public.
In Wisconsin, EOG Resources, a Texas-based company, is monitoring air emissions for crystalline silica at PM4. Data from the first two quarters show most of the samples were below the minimum limit the study could analyze, or 0.3 micrograms per cubic meter of air. The DNR’s Johnson said the EOG study helps “fill a gap” the agency identified in its August 2011 study. Keifer said he does not know whether the level of exposure in surrounding communities would be high enough to induce health effects. Some frac sand mining critics question whether the DNR’s regulations and enforcement are enough to protect public health.
Midwest Environmental Advocates, a Madison-based public interest law firm, has challenged two air permits issued by the DNR to two companies with frac sand facilities in Trempealeau County. At a conference of the Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration in the Twin Cities in mid-September, those working with and in the frac sand mining industry expressed similar sentiments. The DNR currently requires only facilities that produce more than 2,000 tons per month on a rolling 12-month average to install ambient air monitors.
The DNR oversees 13 industrial monitors that collect particles 10 micrometers in diameter or less, so-called PM10, at sand mines and processing plants. But health experts are concerned about smaller particles that are not specifically monitored in the ambient air outside frac sand facilities. Many concerned about potential health effects cite Pierce’s work as evidence that understanding exposure is a pressing issue. Marty Sellers, an air management engineer with DNR, said he inspects primarily larger, industrial mines because that is what regulations are geared toward. The DNR requested and was granted funding for two new positions as part of the 2013-15 state budget, though it said it could use as many as 10. In November 2011, a group of 10 citizens, including Pierce from UW-Eau Claire, submitted a petition to the DNR requesting that, among other things, the agency list respirable crystalline silica as a hazardous air pollutant. Scott McCurdy, director of environmental groups with Cedar Corporation, a consulting firm in Menomonie, wrote about his concerns for his family.
Two years after the initial requests, there are still no conclusive answers to the questions weighing on residents’ minds. Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism reporter Tegan Wendland and Chetek Alert News Editor Ryan Urban contributed to the reporting of this story.
The draft bill, now being circulated for cosponsors, would bar local governments from regulating some aspects of nonmetallic mining, including its impacts on air quality, water, road use and reclamation.


The nonpartisan, nonprofit Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism is increasing the quality and quantity of investigative reporting in Wisconsin, while training current and future generations of investigative journalists. CEMA C 5" or 6" Heavy Duty Idlers and Canvas Covers make our Frac Sand Conveyors and Frac Sand Radial Stacking conveyors heads above the rest. We design and build standard models of frac sand conveyors as well as custom plants, truck and rail car unloaders. There are 93,000 rail cars in operation, most of which are not up to current safety standards.
Bob Scanlan, Rick Frank, Dan Griffin, Steve Schuldt, Judy Storlie and Teresa Walter want this mines to be able to expand to their parcel borders without setbacks!
We conserve Minnesota lands through education, outreach and action.Talk to your families, friends, neighbors, and co-workers about industrial scale mining in Houston County.
Share with them links to our website and encourage them to learn more about the dangers that industrial-scale mining pose to our area.
There are two frac sand processing plants on the edges of the village, which straddles Barron and Chippewa counties.
Little is known, however, about whether surrounding communities are exposed to disease-causing levels.
Workers in such industries as construction, sandblasting, mining and glass manufacturing are at risk of exposure.
Preliminary data from its four facilities in Chippewa and Barron counties show much lower concentrations than the Minnesota guideline recommends, according to preliminary results released by the DNR. The samples were also within the average background levels that can be found in the environment throughout the nation, according to the study. However, the DNR can exempt facilities from this requirement if certain conditions are met. The monitors show that all of the facilities’ emissions are well below the Environmental Protection Agency’s particulate concentration standards, Johnson said.
Those additions will allow the agency to expand its compliance efforts to smaller facilities that currently receive less frequent inspections, said Johnson, who will be leading part of the team. Kathleen Vinehout, D-Alma, who has introduced bills with additional requirements relating to frac sand facilities, believes the DNR should have an additional 32 positions, given the number of existing and proposed facilities. Chris Danou, D-Trempealeau, introduced legislation that would create eight DNR positions to monitor the frac sand mining industry. All works created, published, posted or disseminated by the Center do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of UW-Madison or any of its affiliates. 30 in that county, which leads the state in the number of permitted and operating frac sand mines, processing plants and rail loading facilities.
The agency cited the Air Management Program’s lack of authority and the agency’s belief that current regulations were sufficient to protect public health.



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