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Rail approved for 712-acre Wis. mine (07/21/2013)
By Chris Rogers
After a 12-hour meeting, Trempealeau County approved a new slurry pipe and rail transfer operation at one large frac sand mine in the county and a several-hundred-acre expansion for another mine. After receiving conditional approval from the Trempealeau County Environmental and Land Use Committee, Sand Products of Wisconsin plans to build a rail transfer facility near its 712-acre Highway 53 mine. A slurry of frac sand and water will be piped under the highway, under the Trempealeau River, and to a rail transfer facility. From there, centrifuges will extract much of the water from the slurry and the sand will be put into rail cars.

A 400- to 500-gallon-per-minute well will feed the slurry pipe. However, the company plans to use a closed-loop system that will recycle water used in the slurry pipes, so the slurry system well is unlikely to use large amounts of water, noted Trempealeau County Environmental and Zoning Specialist Jake Budish.

The committee also approved the expansion of Cameron Rail's Guza Mine from 21.6 acres to 489 acres.

Scores of people filled the county board room and lined the hallway. People came throughout the day to testify during public hearings on the mines' permits. A half-hour lunch break was the only reprieve for the committee, staff, and attendees during a meeting that stretched from 9 a.m. to nearly 9 p.m.

"It was a long day," Budish said.

Many spoke out, expressing concerns about the impact of silica dust generated by the new operations, ground water contamination from chemicals used in increased washing operations at the Guza site, leakage from the slurry pipes at the Highway 53 site, truck traffic at both sites, and groundwater depletion from potentially heavy water usage at both sites.

Those calling for denial of the permits were disappointed, but the committee included conditions in an attempt to address some of their concerns.

Notably, both mines will be required to pay for air quality monitoring to be coordinated by the county, monitoring of water quality in nearby wells, and monitoring of ground water levels to measure any depletion of the ground water.

The sites are also asked to "minimize the generation of airborne dust" by spraying the sites with water, using curtains, and covering trucks. Both sites are required to arrange deals with local townships for road repair and maintenance due to increased traffic. The Guza mine is required to keep a log of flocculants, or chemicals used to hasten settling at washing facilities, as well as to line its settling ponds with concrete.

Budish described the conditions as typical. Trempealeau County is not new to permitting sand mines. He added that only after complying with the requirements of the conditions and state agencies such as the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources can the mines begin their new operations. 


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