Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Last Chance to Comment on Unimin's Air Permit For Tunnel City Sand Mine

Tomorrow is the deadline for commenting on Unimin's air permit application for the Tunnel City sand mine. The Department of Natural Resources requires Unimin to get such a permit showing that it will build a facility that meets state and federal standards for air emissions. In Unimin's case, that means that they have to build a mine and processing plant with controls that will limit emissions and the release of particulate matter. There are limits on emissions for particulate matter that is ten microns or less or 2.5 microns or less.

Friday, February 10, 2012

DNR Holds Air Quality Hearing In Tomah

The Department of Natural Resources is holding an air quality hearing today at Tomah City Hall. Gene Prell asks if the hearing is simply a formality that will rubber-stamp what is essentially a done deal.

"It galls me that we as residents and the "recipients" of their air quality standards have no bearing on whether or not the air quality permit is approved," writes Prell. He says that it's interesting that the DNR is looking only at state and federal standards and not reviewing standards set by other states on silica emissions. Perhaps even more disgraceful is the fact that the DNR is not initiating further studies of potential problems.

"I'm too darned old to be affected by it," writes Prell, "but I sure wouldn't recommend that any of the grandkids live close to a mine."

Here is the Tomah Journal's coverage of the issue.

Sand Deposits Are Nearly 350 Feet Deep--What Will Digging It Out Do To Our Water?

Gene Prell points out that at the last town of Greenfield board meeting, Unimin's Steve Groening gave a Power Point presentation that showed that the test borings show sand as deep as 343 or 347 feet.

That is deep, writes Prell. "Unimin might start out with an open pit mine and everything would be fine, but if they start mining below the water table--and you know that the water table is probably no more than 30 feet below the tracks at the mine site--I would think that it would have a significant impact on the water table. That could impact the water table at Spring Bank, no matter how much water they pump from Tomah.  The end result could be devastating. Unimin will not divulge their plans and once they get their permits they will essentially be free to do whatever they please within certain few limits for scores of years and we will not be able to do anything about it. "

Thursday, February 9, 2012

State Supreme Court Says Towns Can Regulate Sand Mines

Many town of Greenfield residents wanted to pass regulations governing sand mines. But it was a gray area legally, because Greenfield, like many Wisconsin townships, is unzoned. That means anyone who owns land can use that land for whatever purpose they want. But one township in a situation similar to Greenfield's, the town of Cooks Valley in Chippewa County did enact a non-zoning ordinance regulating non-metallic mining--and sand mining is non-metallic mining. The property owner in the case challenged that ordinance, saying it was really zoning in disguise. A Chippewa County court ruled that the ordinance was invalid--but the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled that that ordinance is indeed valid. This sets a huge precedent for townships across a state that is under siege by sand mines. It means that towns can adopt ordinances that require frack sand mining company to get a license to do so.

Here's link to a Wisconsin Municipal Law blog on the decision and another link to the Chippewa Herald's coverage of the case.