Frac sand mining study: stress more likely to cause harm than environmental issues

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EAU CLAIRE COUNTY, Wis (WEAU) -- It appears that stress, not pollution, could be what's harming some people who live near frac sand mines.

That's what a new health impact study on the industry in 14 Western Wisconsin counties shows. As WEAU found out, some people are questioning the objectivity of the research.

During the year-long study, researchers from the Institute for Wisconsin's Health and county health departments toured sand mines interviewed researchers who had studied sand mining previously and went to visit people living near sand mines.

"We found the environmental impacts were less likely and that changes to sense of place and individual surroundings and stress and anxiety and the fear that some individuals have felt has been cultivated in some areas of the unknown; that can cause some stress and there can be health impacts associated with that," Health Impact Assessment Specialist, Audrey Boerner, explained.

Aaron Scott, who manages Fairmount Santrol, which has a location in Menomonie, says the researchers used facts and science to get their results.

"The impacts stated within the report showed many of the areas of concern to be unlikely, which is a positive for our industry," Scott said.

But others who are concerned about the possible environmental impact of sand mining say the study was biased and they're disappointed.

"Have we given this a long enough study?” Patricia Popple out of Chippewa Falls questioned. “Over the long haul, will there be impacts? Not within the last year, not within the last two or three years. We're looking at how this company, that I think might be more industrial-oriented, can reach this conclusion. I don't know."

The researchers hope this will lead to better industry standards and that health departments will be part of the permitting process.

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