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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