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New Auburn, Wisconsin is a small village in Barron County much like Independence and Whitehall in Trempealeau County. New Auburn boasts a population of 548 people, 217 households, and 139 families residing in the village as couinted in the of 2010 census. WIKI

New Auburn experienced all of the contentiousness and local political battles of the introduction of frac sand mining and processing near their community months ago. The experience was very similar to the chain of events that has occurred in Whitehall and Independence. Yes. The very same events that have occurred in many other small towns and villages where people have met with the money and power of national corporate mining interests for the first time. Of course, the playing field is not level. Legal maneuvering follows the money, and "Oh" there is a lot of money to go around. Lawyers and money.

The mining interest won the battle in the village of New Auburn, and two sand mine facilities are now operating within a few miles of the small community. Of course, there were warnings from the few who showed up at meetings, who spent their own money and time to alert their neighbors to the proven dangers of silica sand mining...but they lost. It was not even close. The time and money available to the mining interests with lawyers on permanent retainer easily squashed the voices of opposition with promises of local jobs, a boost to the local economy, and the power to make a few people very, very wealthy.

The dangers of silica sand mining and the carcinogenic dust blown in the wind was dismissed by the village boards, city councils, and most of all, the folks getting the big checks. The dangers were dismissed as fabrications of fact, or a small risk to take when judged against the economic benefits offered by the mining operation.

Until now....

Schools in heart of sand mine region face air quality threat


By The Associated Press   
Nov. 3, 2013

New Auburn — With four sand mines in operation within a few miles of New Auburn public schools, district officials have taken extra precautions to keep silica sand out of the building's air system.

Superintendent Brian Henning says the district has been using higher-quality air filters at double the price, spending about $1,500 this school year.

West-central Wisconsin is a hot spot for sand mining and residents have expressed environmental and health concerns about the tiny sand particles generated by mining. The sand is mixed with chemicals in hydraulic fracturing — a high-pressure process used to extract natural gas and oil from the ground.

Henning tells the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram school officials took dust scrapings from the air filters and sent it to a Madison lab for testing. They found a small amount of silica on the filters.

The risk

This is the first of what is likely to be an ongoing learning curve defining how the effects of silica sand dust are a real threat to workers, families and children.

 The image at the right is a map of the location of the New Auburn Schools where silica sand dust was discovered in the air filtering system of the local school. The two sand mine operations are a few miles away in both directions. The image of the boy fishing is accompanied by a graphic display of how small particles can be ingested into the lungs - the smaller the particle the more easily it becomes lodged to cause permanent respiratory damage. A larger image and a more complete description of the dangers of particulate sand can be found at Trempealeau Fracne

Disregarding the County Warnings

After review of the health issues centering around silica sand mining,

the Trempealeau County Board voted to impose a moratorium for one year to allow more time for further
investigation of the documented threats to the health of the residents of Trempealeau County. Not ten years or twenty years, but just one year. Hi Crush would not stand for it, and put the lawyers to work to research Wisconsin annexation laws, and persuade the land owners of Lincoln Township to sign petitions and confidentiality agreements so they could move ahead with the mine... not in a year...but now. As it stands, both of the city councils of Whitehall and Independence have voted to annex the huge tract of land so they could begin mining NOW.

The two maps at the right are lifted from a larger searchable map of frac sand sites in Wisconsin. The top map shows the proximity of the New Auburn schools in relation to sand mine operations. The lower map shows the proximity of the Independence schools in proximity to the Hi Crush mining operation.

The moratorium was not imposed to end the economic development of the county,

it was to take a pause to investigate the legitimacy of all of the ill effects of sand mining that had been researched and discovered in many other cities, and counties over the past months.

The majority of council members in both Whitehall and Independence have chosen to error on the side of risk. They have voted to disregard all of the downsides and health risks of families, neighbors, and children in favor of...What? Moving the time line of the mining operation a few months? A few months of active mining trumps a pause to investigate the danger of the dust drifting into the school venting systems in Whitehall and Independence?

A simple presentation of the effects of silica sand mining on the health and welfare of a community can be found at Barron County Silica Presentation. Baron is the county where the New Auburn School is located.

Originally posted to freewisconsinblog.com on Sat Nov 09, 2013 at 06:54 AM PST.

Also republished by Badger State Progressive.

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Comment Preferences

  •  It is important for the word to get out. (8+ / 0-)

    Our media refuse to expose the abuses by the corporatocracy. We need to be loud in our outrage and resistance.

    •  It is getting out, in Minnesota ... (6+ / 0-)

      The STrib and Pioneer-Press have been covering this because there is some similar geology on their side of the river, but the easy pickings have been in Wisconsin because so many of the areas of Wisconsin that have the right geology are lightly populated and relatively poor so the land is cheap. The Twin Cities papers also have better circulation than the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel in that part of Wisconsin.

      Americans can make our country better.

      by freelunch on Sat Nov 09, 2013 at 07:31:43 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  By this time (11/2013) I would think there is (6+ / 0-)

      some quality compilation of harm caused by mining interests (ore strip-mining, frac sand, etc) so that activists in whatever small town could use it to give data on the end result.  :o(

      It's a shame to see uninformed (and bought-off) small town folks getting screwed and/or railroaded into horrible 'deals' where their land and health are effed for decades so Big Dig Inc can make some more $$$, then move on to the next victim.  Over and over and over.

      :o)

      Retired Pie Warrior. Substance over Sh*t Flinging (as best as I am able). Sarcasm for and Derision of Happy Clappy True Believers / Entitlement "Reformers" / NSA cheerleaders (yes, significant overlap) still available 24/7, you betcha!

      by JVolvo on Sat Nov 09, 2013 at 08:03:21 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Recall election in Glenwood City (6+ / 0-)

      for about the same thing. Tthe county refused to grant a permit for a mine, the sand company has tried to get the site annexed into the city so the city would oversee.

      The funny thing is that the St. Croix County Board (which refused the permit) is far from liberal. So what the heck was up if they refused the permit?

      From today's Pioneer Press:

      A recall election has been set for Glenwood City, Wis., where an effort has been underway to unseat the city's mayor and two city council members over a contentious frac sand mine issue.

      The recall effort began after a closed-session meeting between the city council and representatives of Texas-based Vista Sand, which earlier this year applied with St. Croix County for a permit to mine land in the town of Glenwood.

      I will add that there's a bill before the Senate (SB 349) written by the mining industry to effectively remove local control. Even my republican Assembly rep has come out against it.
  •  Silica dust needs to be controlled (5+ / 0-)

    What is the EPA doing?

    I know why our DNR is doing as little as possible.

    Too bad that geology didn't make it so the frac sand mines are in Waukesha and Washington counties. That would get the Wisconsin GOP to care about pollution.

    Americans can make our country better.

    by freelunch on Sat Nov 09, 2013 at 07:22:50 AM PST

  •  Aughh.. (4+ / 0-)

    Had a DINO come up to me during a period for local elections.

    Fuck. I don't know who is what they appear to be anymore. Especially myself sometimes. Confusion says?

    I was outside tending to some chore. The DINO stopped by, introduced, asked for my vote. The dwelling I temp. reside in has a virtual "D" branded on the roof.

    Environment is huge with me - no chicken vs. egg issue. I asked about local issues: fracsand. Trying to sound "smart" & relevant to local issues.

    DINO... squeeked... "was part of the industry."

    That is why I call it a DINO. Would a D be really involved in supplying this sand-of-mass-destruction? WTF. Not my brand of D. NIMBY.

    I didn't vote for this person($) on this issue alone. Dealbreaker. They are not RESPONSIBLY managing this natural resource all the way up the chain.

    Damnit. Why.

  •  Yet another (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    WisVoter

    reason not to lift the ban on fracking in NYS!

    "The light which puts out our sight is darkness to us." Thoreau

    by NancyWH on Sat Nov 09, 2013 at 12:19:45 PM PST

  •  Air Monitoring in New Auburn (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    paradise50

    The air monitoring in New Auburn at the school was done for insurance purposes only. The monitor did not speciate the particulate matter nor did it measure the pm as to size. The monitor was measuring for 11hours 15 minutes only. Its' purpose was to check the indoor air after new filters were installed. New filters were needed when sand was found in the filters last summer.This is not the type of monitoring that will give any credence to the health, safety and welfare of the children or staff. The school board has repeatedly said, "NO'!" to our requests to monitor on school property. Mr. Henning, the schools superintendent, is not qualified to speak to other school superintendents in Trempealeau County much less giving them the 'all clear' sign to allow frac sand mining near their schools. The reporter who did this piece in the Leader Telegram, where it originated, was certainly remiss in his facts which were; NONE! There will be more monitoring in this area in the future and hopefully it will be based on scientific pm readings.

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