A report from the Department of Natural Resources in Wisconsin regarding sand mine dust particles generated a vivid reaction from environmental advocacy groups.
The report involved a 2012 analysis of sand mining, and it was published last week for public debates. The paper includes socioeconomic information and scientific measurements and has the purpose of inferring policy modifications.
There are currently 92 active sand mines in Wisconsin, most of which are used to support fracking activities. The facilities provide good quality silica which is later used to free petroleum and natural gas.
The state produces more than a half of the silica used in the US. The companies that own sand mines reported they had doubled their profits after the emergence of hydraulic fracturing.
There had been multiple concerns regarding air and water pollution, as the mining releases dust particles into the atmosphere and evacuates the sand into the local water sources.
One of the health issues related to sand mine particles is silicosis, an inflammation of the lungs caused by inhaling crystalline silica dust. It is categorized as an occupational lung disease, and it causes a cough, fever, shortness of breath, and bluish skin.
Sand mining is also a cause of erosion, as the soil degrades and the layers’ consistency diminishes. It has an impact on local wildlife, as it destroys habitat, and on tourism, as it brings substantial modifications to the landscape.
However, the recent report from the Department of Natural Resources states that pollutant particles are not a threat in the area. The air quality measurements made in the western part of Wisconsin, where the majority of sand mining facilities are placed, have not detected elevated levels of silica in the air.
The report concludes that the sand mines are not a pollutant factor, and the air quality in the zone falls into the state’s standards.
Midwest Environmental Advocates have a different opinion on the matter. They ask the DNR to repeat measurements and to ask advice from experts and the local population in order to get a clearer view on the situation.
One of the critiques of the report is that it contains data from industry-funded studies that show an acceptable level of pollutants. However, research from the Wisconsin-Eau Claire University showed the situation is entirely different, and that sand mines are a cause and a contributor to air pollution.
The environmental group states that the DNR analysis would improve if other data will be included in the report. Moreover, it requests the state officials to take appropriate legal and environmental actions towards the safety of the area.
The DNR public hearing will be held on the 24th of July, in Eau Claire. Before issuing the final version of the report, the agency will wait 45 days for public comments.
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