Health Dept. to Feds: More sand mining regulations needed

By: Aaron Dimick Email
By: Aaron Dimick Email

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- It’s a new industry to our area that’s causing lots of controversy.

And now a local health department is reaching out to the federal government about the potential health hazards of crystalline silica sand mining.

The Eau Claire City-County Health Department said it sent a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency asking it to create standards for how much silica sand can go into the air.

This is all happening after Health Dept. Director Richard Thoune said the DNR ignored petitions from citizens about sand mining.

Thoune said on top of many occupational hazards, crystalline silica sand mining can lead to a form of lung disease called silicosis.

“And silicosis can sometimes lead to lung cancer,” Thoune said.

He said that’s why back in November, a group of citizens petitioned the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, asking it to look into more regulations on the sand mining industry.

But the group said it was all but ignored.

“We thought if we can't move forward in monitoring respirable crystalline silica because we don't have a standard, let’s get one developed,” Thoune said.

So the County Board of Health said it’s going to the Feds with its concerns.

It sent a letter to the EPA on Friday asking for more environmental standards for sand mining not only in Wisconsin but across the country.

“It would be much easier for the state of Wisconsin to adopt that federal standard and move forward from there,” Thoune said.

Jeffery Johnson is the Acting Deputy Bureau Director of the Wisconsin DNR Bureau of Air Management.

Johnson said those petitions were given consideration but there are already regulations in place.

“Any sort of crystalline silica pollution would be managed through those limitations,” Johnson said.

He said additional rules would be hard to regulate considering the industries that already put small amounts of silica sand into the air.

“Glass manufacturing, foundries, sand blastings, agriculture, roadways, crystalline silica is going to be in there,” Johnson said.

Eau Claire County currently has a moratorium on sand mining in place until May.

Thoune said it’s not yet known when the EPA will respond to the letter, but the Board of Health will give its environmental findings on sand mining to the County in the next week.

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  • by bloated county gov on Feb 26, 2012 at 06:58 AM
    why would we invite federal gov. into local issues? Missguided , unelected civil servents acting as officials.My tax bill is too high and your wasting my money , bringing more unvoted on rules too my county.
  • by Northwoods Free Man on Feb 25, 2012 at 06:23 PM
    For the love of everything that is Holy. How is it that the Eau Claire county health department has found a loophole in the regulations showing that we need more regulation on silica? DO NOT OPEN THAT CAN OF WORMS! Silica is EVERYWHERE. Farmers would have to be regulated for dust on their cattle yards and fields. Townships, counties, states, business parking lots & roads, private parking lots will all need to be monitored because they MIGHT give off dust. I certainly don't want anyone to get silicosis but is about as low-risk mining as could ever occure. It is highly mechanized so the workers will be in filtered and conditioned cabs. We receive 30-40" of rain a year so the soil will already be damp when it is dug up. The type of sand that is being dug is desireable because of it's shape. It is very worn and has rounded edges. It is not the sharp edged silica that is known to contribute to silicosis. This sounds more like a desperate attemt to continue stonewalling.
  • by LA Location: Chippewa Falls on Feb 25, 2012 at 06:47 AM
    This group needs to look at the benefits for what sand mining is doing in the big picture. According to the CDC there was only 82 deaths in 2001 from silicosis, 82 is hardly an alarming number!
  • by dismayed on Feb 25, 2012 at 04:49 AM
    Inviting the fox into the hen house. I call for a county wide popular vote. WE the people can decide our local issues .Keep the Feds OUT
  • by Anonymous on Feb 24, 2012 at 06:05 PM
    Thanks so much for bringing this to our attention! Great news story.
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