|Town of Greenfield residents learn about their new neighbor: a sand mine.|
* They appear to face few regulatory hurdles and have apparently achieved the one major one: filing their reclamation plan with Monroe County. The state of Wisconsin has no mining regulations, they say. They will do some of their own environmental evaluations but there is no environmental impact study required. Water is the main concern--wetlands, and streams. It must also get an air permit.
* The mining will take place above the water table as the plan is currently envisioned. But they stressed that all of this is very preliminary, they say they have been in the area only for a few weeks, so there’s still much they just don’t know. They say they will do hydrologic studies. Some locals expressed their concern, saying that a tunnel operation in previous years left them with sand in their wells.
* Will they need high capacity wells? They don’t know. They say if they do use water they will have a pond that they will line, recycle and reuse. They use the water to wash and “size” the sand. They don’t know how much water they’ll use.
* Perch springs--basically higher springs--would be affected but they say only the springs on the actual sand mine property would be affected.
* Spring Bank is well below the elevation of any land they’ll use, Unimin says, and they say that means its water will not be affected.
* Noise. They say the processing plant will be completely enclosed and say we will not hear any noise from that. However, they did not address the noise of excavating equipment and many at the meeting expressed concern about that, citing the way everyone can hear the tractor pull.
* Lighting. They direct lighting into operations sites and use shields and deflectors to limit that impact.
* Possible challenge: the Northern Natural Gas line dead ends here. It is fairly maxed out and that fact was a deal killer for a 24x7 glass factory. Unimin says it is aware of that.
* Plant location. They will try to somewhat camouflage it with trees or perhaps having it partially hidden by a ridge.
* Dust. They say they use state-of-the art dust collectors and emission control. All we’ll see is steam escaping the plant, that steam is part of the process of removing moisture to the sand. Unimum is a self-described leader in dust collection. They said that wind won’t blow any dust because the only exposed part will be the active mine site. They did not make clear how wind will not blow sand and dust from the active mine site.
* PM2.5 They says these regulations are brand new, they don’t have to monitor for it, but it is not a concern because of their dust and emission controls.
* They expect to spend $100 million, pump $15 to $20 million into the local economy annually and provide 50 to 70 full-time jobs--how many of those will be filled by locals was unclear.
|Local TV crews interview Unimin's Bradley|
* When done--and this is a 20- or 30-year operation--the area will still have contoured topography but it won’t be a replica of what it was. They will reclaim the land and seek local input as to how they revegetate--trees, plants, etc.
* They’re the biggest operator in the business, they say. This 500-acre (maybe bigger) mine would be their biggest and would produce one to two million tons of sand a year. Tunnel City sits on a veritable gold mine of the right kind of sand for “frac sand” used for extracting natural gas and oil. It’s also next to a railroad, which makes it equally attractive. They bought a 20-acre packet of land, did initial drilling, the results were favorable. Then they started buying up large tracts of land--100 acres and more--and then smaller. As far as acquisitions go, “We are not by any means finished with that process,” Groening said. They bought the land under the name Eagle Land Investment to prevent their competitors from moving in and grabbing the land out from under them, not to deceive locals, they said.
* Groening said that Unimin is the most conscientious player in the business. It’s the biggest, it’s the most professional and it is not a fly by night operation. It participates in environmental organizations, he said.
* Unimin is a conscientious mining company, they say, one that works to reclaim land. Their process at Tunnel City would be to deforest (they’re not sure how they would get the trees out yet but say they’ve gotten calls from locals who want to be hired to do the job), take off the overlayer above the sand from one section, take out actual sand from another, and start reclaiming the land on already mined areas. The idea is not to leave a massive black hole. They will have buffer zones around the property, they said, they won’t mine right up to property lines.
* There was some criticism of town board chair Steve Witt; Unimin stressed that Witt has not been involved in any sales at all, although there have been transacations with family members.
* Many in the audience expressed concern about the quality of life in the area--noise, traffic, impact on hunting, fishing, springs.
One member of the audience was the most eloquent: “There’s great trout fishing, graet hunting, springs all over the place, if you do your study, what if some trout streams dry up? What if you do have some impact after you spend your $100 million? What about us little guys?”
Bradley: “If we turn out to be wrong and we have impact, you do have recourse, we can’t go mess with your property.”
One man in the crowd said: “Bow hunting ain’t going to be worth a dime any more.”
The Monroe County Land Conservation office recommends that everyone have their wells inspected now so you have a benchmark to measure against in the future to demonstrate any impact.