The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency held a public meeting on Aug. 2 to give out information about the air emissions permit for the proposed Great Plains Sands facility near Shakopee.
Great Plains Sands is proposing a 130-acre mining facility to produce hydraulic fracturing sand -- better known as "frac sand" -- for use in the natural gas and oil industry.
The facility would be along Highway 169 in Scott County, in Louisville and Sand Creek townships.
The MPCA did not deny that silica dust can cause lung diseases, and residents expressed their concerns about how health and safety might be affected if the project is approved -- especially since it looks like it will be.
"It's what might happen to our water supply, because they're drilling and blasting," said Jim Fink, a concerned resident. "They're going down below the water table."
Some residents also just aren't keen about participating in the process at all.
"It's not just our state. We're contributing the devastation of other states," Margaret Fink said. "With taking our sand and shipping it there, that's what we're doing."
The State of Minnesota does not regulate silica dust, but it does regulate particulate matter, which includes dust, dirt, soot, smoke and other particles in the air.
According to an environmental assessment prepared for Scott County, Great Plains Sands has agreed to monitor the air for total particulate matter and certain size particulates. The company has also agreed to several techniques to decrease the movement of silica dust off the job site, including the building-up of berms between nearby residential areas, limiting the size and height of stockpiles and keeping fine sands wet.
Scott County has approved an interim-use permit for the frac sand facility, but it still needs an air emissions permit from the MPCA.
The company would mine about 100 acres for silica sand, and use an additional 28 acres for processing and railcar loading. A total of 12 acres would remain intact as buffer areas.the company said it plans to occupy the space for between 15 and 20 years.
The site is already zoned for rural industrial use and has been used for mining, hog farming, auto salvaging and concrete mixing in the past.
Great Plains Sands expects to mine the area for 15 to 20 years. Much of the processing will take place inside buildings. Some operations will run from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday while other operations will run 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
As the Star Tribune reported earlier this year, the Great Plains Sands facility has been met with resistance in Scott County. The frac sand facility is one of a couple job sites that would run alongside the popular Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge.
Refuge manager Charlie Blair told the newspaper in February that the developing south metro needs to maintain an outdoor recreational experience, but conceded mining could yield a long-term benefit to the refuge.
The public comment period is open from July 27 to Aug. 27. Comments must be received in writing at the MPCA by 4:30 p.m. on Aug. 27. Comments, requests and petitions regarding the draft air emissions permit should be addressed to Steven Gorg of the MPCA at 651-757-2396 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The draft permit will be available for review and comment on the MPCA Public Notices website at www.pca.state.mn.us