From: Michael J. Maher
I am strongly opposed to silica sand mining in Winona County. If given the chance, I would vote to ban silica sand mining in Winona County.
Chief Seattle told us that whatever we do to our land, we do to ourselves. Our mining ordinances direct the county to support and protect the family farm and our natural resources. To do so, the commission in my opinion, must look to the future to protect our land. If you look around our immediate area, you will find a number of abandoned sand mines, now lakes and great mosquito breeding grounds. The abandoned mines will never be reclaimed. Some of those mines were once agricultural like the one located on the west end of the airport. At least one person, in my memory, has died swimming in a “lake” north of Westfield Golf Course. At least the sand and gravel mines are beneficial to us as they provide the raw materials for concrete widely used in our area.
Silica sand is not used in Winona County for production of petroleum products. It is not valuable for use in normal construction. Research indicates the dust caused by the mining, processing, and transporting is a health risk for us. The silica sand mines in other areas have negatively affected ground water, especially in agricultural areas where the top soil has been removed allowing rain runoff to flow into the ground and into our aquifers. When it leaks into the aquifers, it will be in our wells. Talk to the folks in Lewiston about nitrates in their wells.
Silica sand is used for “fracking” which is a process used by oil companies to extract oil and gas from the earth. The process involves pumping a mixture of silica sand with water mixed with toxic chemicals to fracture the rock that releases oil and gas. Yes, we benefit by cheap oil and gas, but what happened to the earth? The ground water is polluted and great quantities of the water supply is used. The earth does not have an infinite supply of water. In addition, where fracking is used, there is a great increase in earthquakes and tremors. Talk to the folks in Oklahoma. By mining and selling silica sand, are we not complicit in the harm done to our earth?
By banning silica sand mining in Winona County, we will be taking a stand in protecting our land, our ground water, and our earth and that would be a very good thing.