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On Nov. 19, The Los Angeles Times’ Neela Banerjee, writing from Chippewa County, WI, explained what we covered here in June in our “Sand Land” investigation.

The skinny: mining for frac sand creates a whole slew of problems and must be taken into consideration in the “cradle to grave” equation when quantifying the ecological hazards associated with hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) for unconventional oil and gas.

“In time, 800 acres of farmland will be mined to feed an energy boom sweeping the United States,” explained Banerjee.

The crystalline silica sand currently being mined from this farm land is blasted into hard rock shale basins during the horizontal drilling process popularly referred to as fracking. This particular fine-grained, circular sand is the perfect shape to break open up pours for shale oil and gas to flow out from under the ground.

“Ground zero for industrial sand mining is western Wisconsin, in counties like Trempealeau, Buffalo and Chippewa,” wrote Banerjee, echoing our findings here on DeSmog. ”At least 60 industrial sand mines are functioning or in the permit process in the area, up from five in 2010…[A] fracked well could use anywhere from 2 million to 5 million pounds of sand.”

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

On Nov. 19, The Los Angeles Times’ Neela Banerjee, writing from Chippewa County, WI, explained what we covered here in June in our “Sand Land” investigation.

The skinny: mining for frac sand creates a whole slew of problems and must be taken into consideration in the “cradle to grave” equation when quantifying the ecological hazards associated with hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) for unconventional oil and gas.

“In time, 800 acres of farmland will be mined to feed an energy boom sweeping the United States,” explained Banerjee.

The crystalline silica sand currently being mined from this farm land is blasted into hard rock shale basins during the horizontal drilling process popularly referred to as fracking. This particular fine-grained, circular sand is the perfect shape to break open up pours for shale oil and gas to flow out from under the ground.

“Ground zero for industrial sand mining is western Wisconsin, in counties like Trempealeau, Buffalo and Chippewa,” wrote Banerjee, echoing our findings here on DeSmog. ”At least 60 industrial sand mines are functioning or in the permit process in the area, up from five in 2010…[A] fracked well could use anywhere from 2 million to 5 million pounds of sand.”

The airborne dust eminating from mining for frac sand, a study published by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently demonstrated, can lead to silicosis for miners working on site. Comparatively speaking, “little is known about its effect on people who live near mine sites,” Banerjee explained.

University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire’s Crispin Pierce, a toxicologist and head of the environmental public health, believes a comparison between smoking cigarettes and exposure to secondhand smoke is an apt one to make here.

“These are dangerous substances, but what are the levels you’re exposed to if you live near a sand mine or near a rail line where trains filled with sand pass five times a day?” he rhetorically asked The Times.

A “Hopeless” Future?

Community members aren’t happy with the ever-expanding “land grab” unfolding and some have chosen to speak out.

“People here say this is an issue of property rights, that they can do what they want with their land,” Ken Schmitt, a cattle farmer and anti-mining activist told The Times. “But individual rights end when you start affecting others’ health and welfare.”

Others are completely distraught and feel all hope is lost.

“Fighting this just seems so hopeless,” said an anoymous cranberry farmer. “The companies just have so much money. They can just buy everybody. It seems like nothing can stop them. There’s got to be better ways than this.”

From the frac sand mines; to shale gas basins around the world; from the unmonitored and unregulated pipelines that take that fracked gas and ship it to market; and lastly, to LNG export terminals; the unconventional gas industry is destroying the ecological landscape from cradle to grave.

Originally posted to Steve Horn on Tue Nov 20, 2012 at 11:10 PM PST.

Also republished by Badger State Progressive.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tipped, recced and republished to (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ER Doc, jbob, marina

    I started with nothing and still have most of it left. - Seasick Steve

    by ruleoflaw on Wed Nov 21, 2012 at 04:27:56 AM PST

  •  In New York it is water they are after (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    marina, Compost On The Weeds

    The fracking operations in PA have started shipping water over from southern New York. They use rail and trucks to move millions of gallons of clean water. Then they mix it with pollutants and ruin it forever. A few places are selling it to them now. Get ready for the water wars to move east.

  •  While I think your conclusion is a bit overblown (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    marina, BRog

    I fully agree that hydraulic fracturing needs to be heavily regulated and permitted to be done only where it can be shown to be safe for the environment (with all necessary remedial obligations flowing to the entity doing the fracturing should something go amiss). I also agree that particulate emissions from sand mining, handling, and shipping need to be investigated and regulated and monitored as well (though I suspect the Clean Air Act may already have some reach in this arena).

    That said, there are a few minor things in this paragraph you may want to correct:

    The crystalline silica sand currently being mined from this farm land is blasted into hard rock shale basins during the horizontal drilling process popularly referred to as fracking. This particular fine-grained, circular sand is the perfect shape to break open up pours for shale oil and gas to flow out from under the ground.
    1.  Sand is not "blasted" into rock. It's injected as a water-based slurry under high pressure. While subsurface explosive charges sometimes are used during drilling activities, they aren't used during the sand slurry injection phase of hydraulic fracturing, as far as I know.

    2.  Geologically speaking, shale is not a "hard rock." The term "hard rock" generally refers to igneous rock (granite, basalt, diorite, etc.). Sedimentary rocks like shale are considered a "soft rock."

    3.  The term you were searching for in the last sentence was "pores" not "pours."

    Thanks for the diary.  It's interesting how many heads this beast has.  

  •  Thanks so much (0+ / 0-)

    This fracking sand situation is yet another head of the beast, as Ernest T Bass indicates above. It's important that various groups stick together to continue to portray the destructive reach of the extraction industries. We will have a big decision to make, and soon, about our energy sources if we want to survive. One way, we know, leads to extinction.

    I really appreciate the insightful diaries you've been writing. Please keep up the good work!

  •  Any mention of the Shock Doctrine? (0+ / 0-)

    We have a major economic slump and horrible levels of unemployment so suddenly it's a good idea to ruin the landscape where people live, risk  environmental nightmares (and their lungs) for fossil-fuel company profits.

    Same shit, different day.

    Maybe one day the Fourth Estate will take their jobs seriously. Or not..

    by Anthony Page aka SecondComing on Wed Nov 21, 2012 at 08:11:24 AM PST

  •  Silicosis is really east to diagnose. (0+ / 0-)

    One would think that if people were getting that from "second-hand sand" around mine sites, there'd be plenty of evidence.

    •  This is environmental Silicosis, not industrial (0+ / 0-)

      Unlike industrial exposure where you can avoid silicosis by wearing a respirator, daily environmental exposure is hard to avoid and hard to quantify. No one knows how long it will be before medical problems like silicosis show up.  

      "We are slow to realize that democracy is a life; and involves continual struggle." ~ "Fighting Bob" - Robert M. LaFollette Sr.

      by Sand Hill Crane on Thu Nov 22, 2012 at 12:01:39 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  5 million pounds of sand - something not right! (0+ / 0-)

    that is your maximum of 2500 tons of sand per well

    @ about 100 lbs per cubic foot for typical foundry sand that is 50,000 cubic feet of sand.....that would be about a 36 foot of cube of  sand ....and enormous volume to pump down a well.

    What source are you relying on for the maximum 5 million lbs of sand?

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