Family Called “Collateral Damage” in Frac Sand Mining District

(first published on WIvoices.org)

Small business owner, Brenda Tabor-Adams, lives with her husband and 2-year-old son in a silica frac sand mining district between New Auburn and Chetek, WI. They are surrounded by mines. Two separate facilities are within a third of a mile and three more are within one mile of her once-quiet, rural property. In addition, several more mines are proposed or already operating nearby. Brenda’s clients now compete with 1,000 sand trucks per day, or 20 trucks every 15 minutes, in order to get their horse trailers in and out of her property. With trucks running for 12 hours/day, 6 days/week, her life has been turned upside down. Dismissed as “collateral damage” by local officials, she fears for the environmental impact, the health of her family and neighbors and the sustainability of her small business. Tabor-Adams also details troubling issues that regular people face when dealing with multimillion dollar mining companies, including lawyers threatening lawsuits, town and county boards “stacked” with pro-sand officials, and the understaffing and underfunding of the Department of Natural Resources tasked to protect the land and the people. Brenda says, “Our government has failed us miserably…”

 

Here’s her story.

 

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Video Highlights from Tabor-Adams:

“I’m stuck here in this house and they won’t… [choking up with tears, hand over mouth]…they won’t help us out.”

“It’s been a long road. We’re not only worried about the silica in the air, but they can discharge their waste water supposedly…we’re worried whether we’ll have enough water…it’s just been icky.”

“I have a 22-month-old son…and I do fear…why would OSHA say this (silica dust) is a carcinogen?…you know maybe a little exposure is fine but in a 22-month-old kid, what is too much?”

Map showing mines and mining facilities surrounding Brenda’s property.

View Larger Map

Brenda and her family live in center right part of the image. ( On Hwy. AA )

Cheiftain’s Luckey Wet Plan is near the center of the image.

Bottom Right: Cheiftain’s Anderson mine.

These are only a couple of the mines and processing plants that surround her.

Click on “View Larger Map” to see other mining facilities very near Brenda’s home. ( further to the right )

 

Is it ok if we film your property?

[Laughing and looking around]

“With the weeds and everything? But I’ve just thought, why even bother – you know? Why even bother maintaining my yard because everything is covered in dust. It’s dirty, it’s icky, you don’t even want to come home….we put an addition on this house 2 years ago, so we could sit and enjoy the quiet, look at our animals and just enjoy our space. And now? We can’t even use our deck! It is loud, it stinks, it is covered in dirt… it’s not what I signed up for.”

“I no longer hang my clothes up….they are covered in dirt. There is no reason to. The trucks are going from 6:00 in the morning to 6:00 at night Monday through Saturday. And then there is still mining activity going on until 8:00 at night, sometimes even going longer. And then you can hear the plant that goes 24-7 all the time. Actually, I have a neighbor who lives right on the Makenzie Marsh, and her entire property is vibrating. When she lies in bed she just feels her house shaking.

[Tearing and trembling] I’m sorry I got so emotional, but I can’t help it.

The screens are caked in dirt, so what is going into my lungs? You can’t keep it clean inside the house. It’s just covered in dirt. It’s on your skin all of the time.

…not only do I have to deal with truck traffic, the 24-hour-a-day mining activity and dirt, but now my water faucet spits a little air. Drywall screws are punching through the ceiling in my kitchen and bathroom from the trucks hitting the bumps on the road and shaking my house all day.”

 

Have you thought about moving at all?

“We’ve thought about moving. It’s just…who’s going to buy this? Who’s going to buy this? [Motioning around] We’d have to take quite a loss if we were going to move…you know, you don’t just write out a check and go buy another house. The mining companies are fighting the property guarantee, which the companies would have to pay the land owners if they sold for a loss. The mining reps say that my property will only increase in value. They say that people will eventually want to come to live here because of the reclamation. But, I think they’ll leave the land when it is done. The amount of money they’ve proposed to reclaim the area is $1,500/acre. You know, you can’t even start-up a bobcat for that amount.”

“A friend of mine works for a rock quarry mining company, and she said that frac sand mining is no kind of mining that she knows at all. The quarry takes care of the people around their area. If people are unhappy, they buy their property. So, when I first heard of sand mining I thought – big deal?…because that was my frame of reference.”

Then I actually had a really good friend not say anything to me when she sold her property…and I had a nephew who didn’t say anything to me, either. Then, another one of my friends down the road got manipulated into selling their property to the mining companies, because they told her, ‘you don’t want to live next to a sand mine, it is really, really bad, you need to get out.’ …Then, they pretty much took their property… But they actually did want her land, because they built their tracks there…But she refused to sign the gag order. Then she actually spearheaded the little group in the neighborhood, The Concerned Dovre Residents, and tried to convince the town board that we needed an ordinance.”

 

Video Highlights from Tabor-Adams:

“At town board meetings we’ve had sand company lawyers threaten to sue us if we pass ordinances to try to protect the residents…they have also threatened to have Governor Walker step in if we pass an ordinance that they don’t agree with”

“The county board doesn’t want to hear it, they’re all for jobs. They don’t care what happens to us. We’re actually called ‘collateral damage’…they figure it is ok for us to ‘take one for the team’ in the name of jobs…”

“the town board hired an attorney from a pro-sand mine firm to help us…he says the DNR is doing a good enough job…”

“the deregulation of the DNR doesn’t allow me much protection anymore, its turned into a customer service agency turning out as many permits as they can…”

” I was actually a very strict Republican up until last year…but now as it is hitting me on a personal level, and I’m not anymore.”

 

 

Do you know anyone who works at the mines in the area?

“Yes, my nephew who used to own the place where the wet plant is and also my brother-in-law got in there and I have a client who has a son who works here. They are hiring, not a lot, but they are.”

What about neighbors who were able to sell their property?

“It depends on how it was done. Some just sold their property and moved away. Then, some sold their property and went to the town board, and they didn’t care about what they did to their neighbors…it was their money and they don’t want any regulation at all. They may have had good friends or even family members…and then to have them just turn their back on you because of jobs or money? They don’t care what happens to you and your family…

Call it what it is – it would’ve been much better to me. Instead of throwing me under the bus, just come right out and say, ‘I want my money.’

We’ve [The Concerned Dovre Residents Group] personally hired Glen Stoddard as an attorney and he’s been trying to help us out. Our goals are to try to protect our air, protect our water, protect our property values, save us from the truck traffic…make sure that we are not just run into the ground. The town board just doesn’t want to hear anything about it.

There are more people in our Concerned Dovre Residents group ready to talk to you. Our whole story is so unbelievable that we are afraid no one would believe it even if it were a made-for -TV movie. We’ve had violations of open meeting laws, a town attorney with a conflict of interest, a stacked county board that doesn’t want to collect information from any professionals, including the Wisconsin Town’s Association, our attorney, or even Jim Drost who is a Mining & Environmental Engineer.

And we can’t seem to get anyone with power to notice! Even on the other side of the county – they’re like, “we don’t care.” It’s not happening in their back yard. But a lot of people are born and raised in this area and have no idea what big money, big oil, big corporations can do. They have no clue.”

If somebody did approach you and asked to buy you out, at a fair price, would you consider doing that?

“I would. Um, actually, the entire group of us that has been standing up and trying to get us all protected, have all said that if anybody has a chance to get out – we’re all for it. If it means the rest of us have to stay here….just anybody getting out would be good.

But they don’t have to buy us. Why should they? It is an extra $100,000 that they can pay their CEOs…I don’t know.

If I had one wish, honestly, I’d just like to leave. If I can’t….if it isn’t going to stop, I just want to leave. I didn’t sign up for this. I didn’t buy this little chunk of acreage out in the country in a quiet little township to turn it into an industrial park….I could’ve lived anywhere. I wouldn’t have picked an industrial park.”

 

 

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The lawmakers in the state of Wisconsin have indicated that loosening mining regulations is a priority for the next legislative session. This has many people worried, especially given the understaffing and underfunding of the DNR coupled with county regulators being hired away by the sand companies they formerly regulated. With a total of more than 100 frac sand mines or processing facilities currently operating or proposed in the state, more and more families likely will find themselves expected to “take one for the team” as “collateral damage” in Wisconsin’s sand rush.

 

 

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18 Responses to Family Called “Collateral Damage” in Frac Sand Mining District

  1. Linda Atkins says:

    Thank you for sharing this important article. We ALL should be angry and upset about the destruction of our homes and air and water. When will people wake up?

  2. Jess D says:

    I know I was disgusted when I was home this fall and saw the mines that had been built just in the year since I last visited. I ran a 10k for the Dovre Church and there were 3 Frac Sand mines as sponsors, I just about flipped my lid. Temporary jobs for what could be permanent raping of the Northwoods…..not to mention poor people like Brenda stuck in the middle. Makes me very sad. Any talk of moving back to the area is out the window as the entire county sits on shale and could be prospects for more mines. :(

  3. Sharon Johnson says:

    Welcome to Wisconsin and Walker Rule!

    The best way to fight this is to make it become a national issue and to have frac sand mining be side by side with fracking. There is growing outrage about frac drilling and a growing awareness of the dangers to water supplies and communities. And of course it is part of the bigger issue of the rape of our environment for the benefit of corporations.

    I think I would send a copy of this article to the following outlets:
    The Rachel Maddow show
    crooksandliars.com
    environmentaldefense.com
    and of course any other .coms that are involved with opposition to the fracking industry.

    I am aware that the DNR has been neutered in this state but the EPA still has regulatory authority. I would think that the DOT would be involved in the issue of road use (traffic and loads) Surely these highways will require attention soon with this heavy traffic. What will the cost be? Who will pay those costs?

    As to the attorneys: the company that wanted to build 28 condos on the property next to me also threatened to sue our township board and the county board if they didn’t get their way. We shut them down. I went door to door in the township and with the help of others we packed the town board meeting in opposition and also showed up at the county board meetings en masse. It was also helpful that I googled the company and found all sorts of fines that had been levied against them for not following the building rules. I presented that material to the county board and they decided to turn the matter back over to the township board which made the building and road requirements so strict that the developers just went away.

    There are lots of ways to skin this cat but I hope that people won’t be deterred by threats of lawsuits or goofy town board members. If enough people stand up against it they will shut it down.

    They may also want to contact the local realtors and the realtors associations as this sand mining activity will no doubt have a huge effect on property values in the surrounding areas – and not in a good way except for the people who have sold or leased their land to these companies.

    Think of all of the agencies and groups that can be involved and make it a ground swell against. We need to protect what is left of our environment.

    Sharon Johnson

    F

  4. A Concerned Dovre Resident says:

    This site should be called cherrypickedWIVOICES.com. As usual, a handpicked, easily arguable set of talking points are used without any word from the other side.
    Maybe Brenda should be asked if she has ever actually talked to the sand company reps to see what can be done if she has been affected.
    And that is a County road, not a town road.
    And OSHA standards for silica dust are for people working very closely in enclosed areas around high amounts of fractured sand, like sandblasters and machinists.
    And the town attorney is not ‘just hired’. he is slow but a competent lawyer for many townships.
    And the DNR is not a ‘customer service agency’. All the rules are the same but they are understaffed. That doesn’t mean their performance is worse, it just means it takes LONGER for permits and such to be given out.
    And there is NOT 24-hour mining.
    And one shouldn’t make a habit on riding horses on a County Road anyway.
    And there has been no blasting so how could there be sheetrock screws poking out? Full honesty expected PLEASE!
    And there is no affect on water or wells. If you doubt it, talk to an expert! not a radical old, disgruntled ex-metallic miner!
    And most of the dirt and dust near her house was because the road was under construction. Lets me honest here!
    And the companies are paying 100% for the roads. Are you trying to say it is your right to regulate what is driven on the road too?
    And there is nobody on the townboard who sold their land or leased their land to any frac sand company!
    The frac sand companies want to fix problems that they might create. but it has to be done while following rules. They have all their permits, self monitoring as well as third party monitoring, working with adjacent landowners on sound barriers and such. The problem is that there needs to be a defined affected area and a defined, fair way to fix things. Not just whoever complains gets their house paid for a mile away from any plant because ‘all these extra trucks are load and unfair’.

    • Brenda Tabor-Adams says:

      Thank you, Concerned Dovre Resident, for your comment that allows me to clarify my interview a little further…. yes, it was a spontaneous, emotional creation and yes, I may have mis-spoke on a few subjects when put on the spot, but the just is the same–this has been a MISERABLE turn of events for my friends and neighbors “stuck” in the mining district–enough to bring me to tears. Your cold comments do not change what our experience is.

      Believe it or not, I am NOT anti-mining…all I have asked for from the very beginning is PROOF that this large scale, destructive industry is in the best interest of our community as a whole. If I can find that proof, I will “take one for the team” like our County Board expects me to do. So far, I can’t find the source that gives me enough information to make me comfortable with their smoke-in-mirrors answers. Last I checked, “Big Money” and “Big Oil” weren’t in the top ten list of honest professionals….
      Maybe you are the source I am looking for? Just be warned, the reply “Cuz I said so” or “I found it on a Frac Sand Mining Website” or “I stand to make a profit on this industry since my dad drives a truck so I’m regurgitating what the Mining Rep told me” isn’t going to fly with me. Since you know so much about me, maybe you would like to contact me directly and “help me understand” why I shouldn’t be concerned. Like I said in the interivew: “I hope I am wrong!” I am truely open to the “education” but it will come with some tough questions…

      Until then, let me respond to a few of your concerns:
      1) Yes, we have tried to talk to the companies to get some help with the destruction of our lifestyle. There have been requests for everything from purchasing property to simply asking for a few trees….and guess what…nothing happens…. believe me, we are not done asking. I hope someday one of us can get out of here.
      2) You are right! County AA is a County Road, not a Town Road.
      It was actually a very quiet little road until this year. For the 10 + years prior, I would look up if a car went past, because chances are, it was one of my neighbors. Now I look up to see if I can catch someone throwing garbage in my yard.
      And I don’t remember saying I “owned” the road, but maybe I will have to re-watch the interview to see how you got that piece of information? Now, help clarify something for me–are you saying that since the sand companies paid for 100% of CTH AA, they own it instead? So I should not be riding my horses on it? Otherwise, I don’t recall any law that says using a horse for transportaion on County Roads is illegal. I suppose this news flash should be passed onto my Amish neighbors as they are scared to death to travel these roads now. Good to know. Otherwise, thanks for the horse safety tip…I’m assuming you are well schooled in that as well? And just so I can calm your fears for my safety and my horse back riding habits, I would like to re-iterrate that I don’t ride on that road anymore. (Funny you care about that, but not my toddler’s lungs.) Returning the favor, may I then suggest you not walk on your Town Road as it is made for cars that are not yours.
      3) And good to know that OSHA silica standards are only for workers. That somehow, does not make me feel better. I suppose you have access to these studies where compromised air quality only affects workers during an 8 hour shift and has no affect on a 2 year old at a lower level over the course of 10 years at 24 hours a day/7 days a week. Let me ask you this…have you checked out the roads covered with sand? And watched the street sweeper buzz up and down the road kicking up large plumes of silica from morning til night. And you want to hang your hat on the “fact” that my family is not affected? Wow. Gutsy.
      4) So you are saying that our Town Attorney (that works for a pro-sand mining firm and has represented pro-mining interests in the past) is a good Attorney, but he is slow. What? Is that what you really meant? I know things can be taken out of context, but once again, that doesn’t make me feel any better. Why should it take 14 months (yes, 14) to write an ordinance? Other Townships have done it in 3. Something is going on. I personally don’t know what it is…I just know it looks pretty suspicious.
      5) There isn’t enough time to get into the DNR mess… if you would like me to get you in touch with a few people that took early retirement or bailed from the “old” DNR after the Walker induction of the infamous and uneducated Cathy Stepp…just let me know. She’s a puppet and so are her current underlings if they want to keep their job. By the way, have your heard of ALEC? But I digress….
      6) Are we playing semantics with the 24 hour mining thing? FUN! You must be differentiating physical mining from the wet/dry plants. Maybe I should have said “mining operations” so it didn’t upset you so. Whatever it is…they are loud and it is 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. In case you haven’t been past any of them at night…let me tell you, they are running and they are loud. Perhaps I am just a light sleeper, but I hear them EVERY night, ALL night. You aren’t going to convince me or a couple of my neighbors otherwise.
      7) If you review the interview, I said the drywall screws were exposed from the truck traffic…not blasting. I’ve never heard any blasting. Maybe it’s the age of my little farmhouse, but I can “feel” every big truck that goes past my house. It may just be my dumb luck, but it is what it is…. don’t call me a liar because you are too busy thinking about what you are going to say next instead of truly listening to what I have experienced and understanding what the “other side” of the Township deals with.
      8) Are you also the water expert I am looking for? Because my well is sputtering air and it now tastes a little funny on some days. I’m sure it’s not all the mining companies’ fault, probably has something to do with the drought, but once again, lets use some logic… a large number of high capacity wells in one area is going to affect water. Period.
      As a little side note: One of my neighbors is also affected and she saved her water filters for the last several months…each getting more and more filled with sand. Probably just her imagination, too?
      While we are at it, can you show me the research where X amount of flocculant does or does not break down into a neurotoxin and how much neurotoxin is OK to be on the waste material that is placed in an unlined pit 5 feet from our water table. Please? I have been looking for this information for quite a while and you seem to have all the answers…. Otherwise, who better to ask than a disgruntled old ex-miner who HAS dealt with frac sand and other big companies with their disdain for the environemt.
      9) FYI, the road has now been done for quite a while and the dust is still pretty bad. Reference point #3. And remember…you can’t see silica dust…that’s the problem! Have you heard of silicosis? I can set you up with some information of that…. Or would you like to debate my medical training, too?
      10) Never said that any one on the Town Board sold or leased land. Their family and friends have, but it’s going to be tough to find unrelated people in this little hick village. I have, however, been witness to misconduct and unprofessionalism that I can’t comment on right now.
      11) I agree with your final paragraph. However, you must remember that our “good neighbors” purchased property and moved into our community. While I don’t think it is my right to tell them what to do with their new property, I also don’t think it is their right to ruin mine in the meantime. (Kind of like moving to a foreign county and expecting the whole village to change everything because you moved in.) It’s just not right on so many levels. I think the thing that really bothers me the most is the use of the “gag orders” that place neighbor against neighbor, friend against friend and family against family. It obviously doesn’t take much to buy loyalty in Dovre or I seriously misjudged the ethics of a lot of people.

      All sarcasm aside, I am serious if you want to talk in person and set me straight…. all I want are some solid FACTS!

    • A Concerned Dovre resident that actually lives in Dovre says:

      ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. The post above from “A Concerned Dovre Resident” is obviously not from anybody that lives here in Dovre. Those that live in Dovre know better.

  5. Mark Ziperski says:

    Yes lets be honest,we like honesty that why we put are names up on our responses.
    1.)My water filters are filled with sand this pass summer stop on by I’ll show you.
    2.)The Anderson mine was running late into each night this pass summer the noise was earth-movers and Cats.
    3.)The vibration from the sifter of sand at the plant can be felt by the some residents through the night. We use to hear the back up alarms early in the morning and late in the evening this past summer.
    4.)The Doppler effect of vehicles passing a solid object transmits sound ways that cause vibration the closer you are to the cause. Hundreds of trucks per day will impact a person health and property and cause emotional and physical damage.
    Asking for protections from living in now an industrial park is not wrong. It is immoral and unethical to force an unsafe condition or for a property owner to lose his rights and be impacted without compensation to his property. It may be foreign to you, but very popular in larger municipal localities. It is a protection in the constitution and the Bill of Rights, the 5 amendment to the constitution gives the government power of eminent domain but not without cause and compensation. The burden to affect ones private property is a tall wall imposed on the government. John Locke , a legal scholar who impacted our founders of America through legal understanding of property rights was how this came to be. In England and other countries prior to the 13 colonies Kings and countries instituted burdens and confiscated private property without restitution. People were not allow to use their property without the governments permission. The term Life Liberty and the pursuit of happiness was originally going to be Life Liberty and the pursuit of private property. ( meaning you own it and have rights the government can’t take away.) This is sounding more like Dovre isn’t it ?
    http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/eminent+domain
    5.) Who are you suggesting is an expert on water usage. Are we to assume that all those that are profiting from mining- selling, producing,working for or relations to any of the former are looking out for the rest of us. There are 50 township that
    “Get It” and have written laws protecting ALL the residents or have imposed a moratorium before the NR135′s or road agreement was in place. This stalling tactic and playing dumb or blaming everyone from the past President to Mr. Haney is obvious to all.
    6.) OSHA regulates the safety of employees working for an employer. You can’t use OSHA standards for residents unless you want to pay them a wage. Many of us have installed filters, might wear ear plugs, implemented dust mitigation prevention, reassessed our future finances and dreams of living a healthy peaceful life in the country. Our desire to ask and expect protections have impacted our friendships and employment opportunities with a loss of thousands of dollars while the greedy are still counting money.
    7.)The nepotism and marketing of the miner as the good neighbor wears thin when wells aren’t tested properly or were not tested in the area until they are pressed to do so. When they install lighthouse beacons on the sand towers and claim its MSHA rules (no it’s not!) I spoke to the head of MSHA for MN and WI and read the rules. They could install full shielded lights and poles on the perimeter pointing inward and accomplish the same results.
    To suggest that 90 decibels is an acceptable standard for anyone to be exposed to daily in their home is a just unbelievable. We don’t wear PPE in our homes so we can be OHSA compliant.
    8.) Everyone can still have all the money they can earn we just want protections for our investment and will be happy to exit if possible some day. We do not covet others money we covet our property value and our investment. Is that wrong? Speechless?, no one has answered that one.
    9.) The TB was handed a lawyers card and was told in February that the lawyer for Cooks Valley and Howard was available in 2 weeks when if they desired a change in attorneys, because “our attorney” was too busy last year suing another township that was asking for protections ,Hello (HE LOST!). The new lawyer was well qualified and had a complete understanding of all issues. Instead of blaming the attorney again for not giving them good advice they have painted themselves into a corner or are intentionally pretending to be working on an ordinance. It’s wearing thin a year later we handed them an ordinance or several back in December and January that needed the lawyers review and passage before February. The lawyer responded in April that he wasn’t told to work on an ordinance.
    What a surprise! This is like a good novel, don’t you want to wrap yourself up in a blanket and drink some hot chocolate.
    10.)The residents who were working on the ordinances all last winter and spring have a good understanding how this works and have researched and attended many hearings and symposiums to educate the TB and themselves. You could put them in a room with all those now high priced mining lawyers and they could hold there own with acquired knowledge on mining regulations and rights. And even “if” some of us are older.
    11.) The dust and stones on the roads are everywhere and we have observed that some of the trucks are not using the retractable covers and are missing flaps. I have 2 windshields with stone cracks in them, you may stop by and I’ll show you. I had my sons car window fixed before this started and now he has another picked up along AA
    It happens!
    12.) Lastly, Some of the locals who criticized the residents that were arguing for protections will now become the benefactors of an ordinance if passed and will not look back as they drive away. I may stick around to see the results.
    Thanks for your comments we like to sharpen our point of view.

  6. Roberta Dzimiela says:

    Well done, Brenda. I have great respect for your courage to share your experience(s.)It remains a baffling point to me that residents would be willing to forego regulation (of a heavy industry) that has opted to move into an area where neighbors are a stones-throw away.

    Regarding Silicosis, for anyone wishing to educate themselves on the dangers of silica exposure, please check out the following links. You will find that silicosis is not applicable only in “enclosed” spaces. http://www.osha.gov/dsg/topics/silicacrystalline/endsilicosis.html
    http://www.osha.gov/dts/hazardalerts/hydraulic_frac_hazard_alert.pdf
    http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/97-118/

    Yes, OSHA regulates employee saftey. As does MSHA. That reveals a problem. Who is responsible for off-site impacts? MSHA has no regulatory authority off-site, yet the impacts of mining are not confined to the boundaries of the mining properties. One quick trip to a mining district, such as Dovre Township, will quiet the rumor that off-site impacts are minimal. Noise & Dust are indisputable, even to those that are rolling out the welcome mat to the mining companies. Water quality and quantity issues are yet to be determined. And, more importantly, as Brenda stated, the dust that carries the danger can NOT be seen. With so much visible dust in the air, are residents suppose to believe that the dangerous particles are absent?

    The DNR is overstaffed and overfunded. Yet, one of their priorities is to SHORTEN the length of time in which mining permits are approved. Here is a summary of WDNR’s Cathy Stepp’s focus: Stepp notes her administration is concentrating on improving DNR’s customer relations and streamlining and simplifying permitting …
    Experience tells (most of) us that taking short cuts i.e. streamlining, often results in negative consequences, so the new approach by the WDNR is not one I am embracing . Ironically, when the state of Wisconsin is experiencing an influx of mining operations, the WDNR decides to focus on minimizing any delay for mining permits. Seems to me it should be the other way around.

    Mining has a long history in Wisconsin. However, of the 2500+ non-metallic mining operations in Wisconsin prior to 2009, only TWO were somewhat comparable to the “new” demand of frac sand mining. Those two mines are similar in the product they produce and that is about where the similarities end. Those two mine-sites are not “spread out” like the operations in Dovre. Their operations took place at primarily at one location, versus the new trend of trapping the residents by circling the neighbors with dry plants/wet plants, mine sites, rail loading sites located on different properties. In addition, today’s frac sand mining is in it’s infancy in Wisconsin. There is NOT an established history of “safe” frac sand mining as mining representatives would like us to believe.

    The favorite go-to point of the mining companies is “jobs.” Yes, we need jobs. I do not know anyone who hopes that the jobless rate increases. How many of the mining employees were un-employed prior to being hired by Superior Silica, Great Northern Sands, or Chieftan Sand & Proppants? The people I know that have taken jobs from these companies were previously gainfully employed.

    I would greatly appreciate an economic model that takes into account the effect of frac sand mining on Barron County’s Ag & Tourism industry. Will loses occur? Ag and tourism are responsible for generating much more money than the projected revenue from mining; is it irresponsible to not consider potential loses to the industries that residents have depended on for generations? Are we putting all our eggs into one basket? The mining industry is known for it’s boom and bust tendecies, and to disregard that fact may not serve us well.

    From the Concerned Dovre Resident, many of us have tried (over and over) to obtain information from the mining companies. Phone calls and emails go unanswered when the questions can not be answered with the rehearsed responses.

    When I first learned of the mining companies moving into Dovre, my questions were genuine. I was not “opposed” to the mining until it became evident that, in my opinion, the words they were sprouting did not coincide with thier actions. Oddly enough, representatives from one company knew a lot of information about me; they had researched me because my property bordered thier proposed rail loading site, yet they employed gag orders in an attempt to keep thier “due diligence” from becoming known. Why? If the industry is a God-send to Dovre, why would they not be very proud and forthright about what they were “giving” to the residents? Many, like myself, simply set out to inform ourselves. It did not become a major concern until we digged deeper. Secretcy has a way of breeding insecurity, and when mining representives themselves shy away from responding, it raises more questions, and subsequently, increased unease.

    Regarding the Property Value Guarantees. I sold to one of the mining companies. Regardless of my reasons, consider this….living in the mining district drastically changes the lifestyle that drew people to the area in the first place. It is very sad that having a one of the companies buy a property is considered an unfair request, or if granted, “gracious.” I don’t know many people that want to leave a home they built. It goes deeper that that. I would offer to those who say it would not bother them if Frac Sand mining became a neighbor, to buy the homes now surrounded by mine sites, wet/dry plants, etc. Or wait, maybe you don’t want to leave “HOME?” Maybe you don’t want to start over?

  7. James J Drost says:

    “Collateral Damage”

    Dear Concerned Dovre Resident,

    I must thank you for your degrading description of me, because without that description I would never know I was making a difference, Thank You. By the way shame on you, you missed an opportunity to use the term “senile”.

    This “radical old , disgruntled ex-metallic miner” may be old and radical by some peoples’ assessment, but he is not daft nor misinformed, and I believe that this old radical duffer can counter your statements that Brenda and Mark did not flesh out. Brenda and Mark did a very excellent job in presenting their case, even if you don’t think so. For every minute that the citizens get to say their statements at a meeting, the miners get at least ten minutes, so don’t feel sorry for them. In addition, the County of Barron goes to great length to stifle our public comment wherever they can.

    1. Let’s set the record straight as to what the WDNR really is today as compared to 2010. The two web sites listed below quote DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp and should be all the proof needed to prove our point.
    * http://expressmilwaukee.com/article-15132-wisconsin's-new-dnr.html
    Wisconsin’s New DNR by Brian McCombie
    ** http://issuu.com/wfbf/docs/ruralrouteoctnov2012
    Stepp Brings Customer Service Philosophy to the DNR by Casey Lagan
    Below I have written a shortened version of what has resulted from Sec. Stepp’s actions.

    After viewing the actions of the “New WDNR” and Secretary Stepp, we can reach no other conclusion, than the ‘Customers’ referred to in her “need to … focus on Customer Service” are not the citizens of Wisconsin, but the polluting powerful multi-national corporations bent on pillaging Wisconsin’s natural resources regardless of the damage perpetrated on the environment and the citizens. Also, there was a significant reduction of “WNRA” (alias WDNR) work force, such that monitoring of the frac-sand miners is, at this point, virtually non-existent. One regulation after another was eliminated or a loophole inserted to satisfy the polluting special interests. The Wisconsin State Government is not satisfied with what they have accomplished so far, but has several items on the agenda to complete (which will have a negative impact on the environment) next legislative session. We know that Sec. Stepp has yet to finish her work, as recently, she so humorously stated “We’re coming up with new recipes.”** (What does that tell us about her background in environmental science?) She has also promised that the WDNR will “ streamline our system and fix our broken processes”* Wisconsin is well on its way to becoming like the coal fields of Appalachia. This is because so many “Broken Processes” have been “fixed”. Can we wait for more Repair?

    2. Now let’s look at just some of the items where the WDNR regulations have been changed. First let us look at Act 21.

    Act 21 “This bill makes the following changes with respect to statements of scope:
    1. Requires a statement of scope to be approved by the governor as well as by the policy-making individual or body before the statement of scope may be sent to the LRB for publication in the register and prohibits a state employee or official from performing any activity in connection with the drafting of a proposed rule, except for an activity necessary to prepare the statement of scope, until the governor as well as the policy-making individual or body approves the statement of scope.”
    I am sure that most of you understand that this gives the Governor the power to reinterpret every law on the books, as well as to put his twist to every law generated now and in the future.

    Next we look at the Silica Mining in Wisconsin (policy) Report-Jan. 2012 which was issued by the WDNR expressly for the benefit of frac-sand miners. The WDNR now allows frac-sand miners to pollute our waters at will. Both the WDNR and the miners call waste water (full of fine silica, very toxic chemicals, and at elevated temperature) “wash water”. The WDNR’s new policy report Silica Mining in Wisconsin Report- Jan. 2012 in section 5.2 states: “Wash water may be reused or discharged after washing to the ground surface, or surface waters …”. This is a license for the miners to pollute our creeks, marshes, rivers, and lakes with impunity.

    To add insulting injury to injury, they can now also pollute our ground water and aquifers. The before mentioned 2012 policy report (Sec. 6.2.3) states:
    • NR 815: Prohibits the injection or discharge of fluids to any well including any bored, drilled or
    driven shaft, dug hole whose depth is greater than its largest surface dimension, improved sinkhole or
    subsurface fluid distribution system.
    The DNR’s cleverly deceitful phrase contained within a list of cannots (“dug hole whose depth is Greater than its largest surface dimension”), now allows companies to pollute the ground waters and aquifers. (Example: a hole with surface dimensions 50 feet by 100 feet long could be 100 feet deep.) These holes are called “Infiltration Ponds” and are usually used when the miners need fresh water pumping capacities from 300 to 3,000 gallons per minute. There are many areas where the ground water source would not support this rate of use without lowering the ground water to the point where surrounding wells would dry up. Thus, the miners discharge their waste water into a “Dug Hole” to be sucked into the ground water to resupply their high capacity pump. This operation creates a ground water resource that in time will become highly contaminated, thereby polluting all surrounding wells.

    3. Also, the WDNR removed “fugitive dust” from being considered as part of the frac-sand miner’s Air Pollution Permit. However, the federal EPA has declared this same fugitive dust in the fracking-well drilling fields as a health hazard, and therefore it cannot be taken lightly or overlooked in Dovre.

    If any of you still have doubts as to the validity of what is said here, I can provide the expert testimony of many other “Experts” that are far more honorable than some I could name.

    Jim Drost BS MS Degrees Mining & Metallurgical Research Engineer Nov. 23, 2012

    • Still A Concerned Dovre Resident says:

      I must apologize for my somewhat harsh description of you, not fair, my mom taught me better….

      …and now lets look at some of the things you say that kind of get some of us worked up:
      1. It doesn’t necessarily matter what the DNR was in 2010, what maters is that it does its job, no more no less. And it IS way better with its customer service – better website, great informative emails regarding its hunting and fishing goings-on, etc. Sometimes, (i mean all times) government can use some streamlining so if that is one of their goals, good for all of us as long as it doesn’t mean you break or bend the rules. Ask people (without political agendas) within the DNR if now all of a sudden the rules are circumvented or if the state is open for business now at the cost of the environment. You are taking a far-out-there conspiracy type approach at a new governor’s (who you obviously didn’t vote for…twice) approach at the DNR.
      A reduced workforce, when dealing with state employees is a good thing, AND it does not equal less monitoring of industries. What do you expect, wardens posted along the mine boundaries with binoculars working in shifts? The permits still need to be approved and reporting still has to happen in a complete and timely fashion. And I am sure they still make their visits.

      How can you be taken seriously when you compare sand excavation to coal mining of the past in Appalachia? seriously? Of course there are impacts associated with frac sand mining but come on, really?

      2. Your opinion on Act 21 sounds more like sour grapes to me. Most anti-Walker people complain mostly about this because of its effect on other things like education and public-sector unions, but you managed to apply it here too. If it was still Doyle running the show, power grabs wouldn’t bother all of you so much, IMO.

      3. Lets look at your opinion on the Silica Mining in Wisconsin (policy) Report-Jan. 2012. Almost all of the following is opinion and factually wrong/misleading:
      ‘which was issued by the WDNR expressly for the benefit of frac-sand miners. The WDNR now allows frac-sand miners to pollute our waters at will. Both the WDNR and the miners call waste water (full of fine silica, very toxic chemicals, and at elevated temperature) “wash water”. The WDNR’s new policy report Silica Mining in Wisconsin Report- Jan. 2012 in section 5.2 states: “Wash water may be reused or discharged after washing to the ground surface, or surface waters …”. This is a license for the miners to pollute our creeks, marshes, rivers, and lakes with impunity. ‘

      It wasn’t for the frac sand miners – they all know this stuff already
      The DNR doesn’t just ‘now’ let anyone pollute anything. rules didn’t change!
      That type of water was always called ‘wash water’
      The DNR knows what is in the wash water,
      there is silica in all murky water runoff from anything in this part of Wisconsin,
      they know the chemicals used in the processes which are actually the same chemicals used to treat most cities DRINKING WATER!
      And how or why would the water be discharged at an elevated temp? Higher temp than the still water sitting in the Keezie swamp in the summer?

      And I think your most misleading comment is how you reference NR815. NR815 is a WDNR chapter used to regulate and permit INJECTION WELLS. As soon as any industry were to try to get a permit for a stormwater pond or infiltration pond (or anything other than an injection well) by using a NR815 permit, the DNR would jump all over them. These site plans get heavily scrutinized before and after approval. To insinuate that what you laid out as a scenario to use NR815 effectively, as a infiltration pond is ludicrous. And you don’t seem to understand what an ‘infiltration pond is…”An infiltration basin is defined as an open impoundment (greater than 15 feet wide in its minimum dimension) created either by excavation or embankment with a flat, densely vegetated floor dedicated to the infiltration of runoff through the ground surface.” Your interpretation is exactly backwards, these ponds are used in stormwater management plans to let water seep naturally into the ground. They need to be a considerable distance ABOVE the water table. They are a good way to REDUCE pollutants. Look it up.

      The sand companies in this area are using less than 500 gallons per minute in their large wells. Not 3,000. nobody uses 3,000 gallons per minute, look it up on the dnr website, the well usage is reported… and you are right, there are areas where large wells dry up private wells. But not here. In those areas the DNR wouldn’t approve the well permits. We have a huge aquifer that recharges very rapidly. The DNR studies the possibilities that you are warning us about.
      And for the rest of that paragraph above, sounds a bit far-fetched to most of us.

      As for ‘Fugitive Dust’ plans. Read WDNR Publication AM-491- 2012. It states:
      “Recordkeeping: All industrial sand mining operations, no matter how small, must keep records of:
      o monthly hours of operation
      o monthly sand production in tons per month
      o records that demonstrate you are following your fugitive dust plan

      3 Fugitive Dust Control Plan: All sand mining operations must prepare and follow a fugitive dust plan to detect dust and prevent it from becoming airborne. Fugitive dust plans must be written and should be kept on-site to be available for review by a compliance inspector.”

      All the companies have these plans in place.

      And I am pretty sure they haven’t polluted St. Louis yet.

      As for my previous description of you Mr. Drost, once again I apologize.

  8. Avatar of Heidi Herron Heidi Herron says:

    To view all comments on this interview, please visit the WIvoices.org main website and see all comments here:

    http://www.wivoices.org/2012/11/20/family-trapped-in-frac-sand-mining-district-called-collateral-damage/

  9. Ann Kuhlman says:

    The real people of The Town Of Dovre who have spoken here are brave citizens and property owners who suffer from this industry on a daily basis. THEY LIVE RIGHT
    THERE. HOW MANY BOARD MEMBERS LIVE ON PROPERTY ADJACENT TO A
    MINE OR PLANT, OR ON A ROAD TRAVELED BY THE TRUCKS TRANSPORTING
    THE SAND? THE SAYING, “IT IS ALL RELATIVE” BECOMES CRYSTAL CLEAR IF
    YOUR LIFE IS CONTINUALLY BEING NEGATIVELY IMPACTED BY SAND MINING AND PROCESSING.

    I now live in the City of Bloomer. But I lived in the Village of New Auburn for six years. So when I attended a Town Of Dovre Board Meeting several months ago, I
    knew most of the residents attending. I had sat through many other meetings related to this issue in the area cities, villages, and towns. But this meeting was intensely personal. I was good acquaintances with residents on the board and on both sides of the issue; those who stood to gain from the sale/lease of their land to
    the mining companies, and those who were fearing the loss of their quality of life, the investment of years worked to pay for their homes and property, their plans to retire right there, and in peace.

    It was a physically painful experience for me as I listened and watched. There were those who would financially profit, those who would lose financially, their quality of life, maybe there health, and those who lived in the town who were in the gray area of neither category, but still in positions to make decisions affecting everyone. I never said a word. I was numb from just the experience of see all of these people with this huge dilemma tearing their community apart. I walked out after the meeting totally drained and not wanting to ever come back.

    That seems like a long time ago, but the ordeal goes on and on for the people of The Town Of Dovre. My heart goes out to those who continue to live there. Some have profited and seem to be happy with the results, but this whole story is a daily update for all involved. Now we hear that some residents are smelling fumes, odors in the air and their water is being affected. I hope it isn’t true; it was part of the worse nightmare that was discussed way back in the beginning of concerns about this unknown industry called fract sand mining and processing.

    The dust,the sand and diesel fuel coating on windows in the Village of New Auburn has become a living reality. Fumes in houses on the truck routes, new allergy problems and train whistles blaring into the night and day are experiences related by residents there. Concerns coming to fruition for neighbors of The Town Of Dovre.

    It was my sincere hope that the Town Of Dovre Board would be able to in-act ordinances that would protect the landowners rights on both sides of the issue. That those who were here first as citizens and landowners would be given first consideration over an industry that came into an un-zoned Town, promising jobs as they established their means of turning a profit for themselves and their investors.
    And that they defined the use of the land and water while they were here, and how it would be left when they chose to exit The Town Of Dovre. That they were responsible for removing every trace of their machinery, plants, and equipment as special use permits were issued and documented in the Town Of Bloomer for a company that have 35 special use requirements in their permit to build a sand processing plant. The citizens were allowed to communicate their concerns, and the planning commission and their lawyer determined the language of the special uses necessary to protect The Town and the residents on all issues not covered by State and Federal laws and regulations. The corporation was allowed to voice their opinions, but the planning commission determined the final content. The corporation had to agree if it wanted the permit. This was in a town with zoning. But it seemed like the same outcome could be achieved by the Dovre Town Board for its citizens.

    As I write this tonight, I don’t know what I can or will do to help the residents experiencing continuing concerns about their lives, their lungs, their water and the environment in The Town and in other communities in the State of Wisconsin. I know we can not just turn our head, look away, or live in the closet regarding the health and rights of these land owners. It could soon be us having our lives turned up side down like the people of New Auburn and The Town Of Dovre. If you don’t speak up where you live, this no longer becomes a democracy. Many have found this out the hard way.

    So I am paying attention. I am open to the true on all issues regarding this Industry.
    I am concerned for the miners as well as the residents and landowners. We are WISCONSIN. THIS IS OUR STATE. THOSE WHO COME HERE TO MAKE A PROFIT AT THE EXPENSE OF THE CITIZENS, AND USE THE CITIZENS FOR THEIR OWN GREATER GOOD NEED TO KNOW WE WILL NOT GO GENTLY INTO THE NIGHT WHEN IT COMES TO WHAT ISN’T BEST FOR OUR HEALTH, SAFETY AND WELFARE.

  10. All of you above are well versed about this strange war we all find ourselves in. Your comments are meaningful and helpful. I am decidedly an environmentalist and have faced off with the Frackers. They are from Mordor. I’m glad to hear your voices and the passion in your words. Good luck to us all.

  11. James J Drost says:

    Dear Admin,

    Thank You for your explanation and I am sorry that I miss understood the purpose of the cross posting.

    Thank You again for all of your support and hard work,

    Jim Drost

  12. Susan says:

    Your story, Brenda, is quite heart-breaking. I actually just returned from a town hall meeting of Terry Moulton. I would encourage you to contact him with your story. I, myself, a life-long republican as you were, went to ask Terry to consider the families that were being impacted by the frac sand industry moving into their immediate vicinity. He commented that he had one other lady at a town hall meeting two days previous that had given a similar heart-breaking story regarding the impacts of frac sand on her quality of life and safety. He plans to meet with EOG (that particular company) and work out an agreement that she could live with. He told me that he had not heard of any other specific stories of property value actually dropping or individuals negatively affected. He told me that if I knew of someone, that he would like me to direct them to him so that it could be addressed. He did say that local officials have significant power to place regulations on these companies, but as you know – that does not always work out. Please contact him to make him aware of your circumstances, encourage your neighbors to do the same, and see if he won’t work something out.

  13. Hey says:

    This families pursuit of happiness is being denied.

    Did not Ron Paul state that the basic freedoms in the Bill of Rights are just varying aspects of Property Rights… including… The Second Amendment… Obviously he was correct.

    It is illegal according to the real purport and exegisis of The Constitution to infringe, impinge, or otherwise encroach upon another person’s property and freedoms.

    Environmental pollution should be regulated by Property Rights. Scrutiny for any attempt to conceal vital or pertinent information from, or hamper an investigation trying to determine how an activity affects a person’s property and freedoms should be of the highest import.

    Corporations are not people.

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