New Auburn, Wisconsin is a small village in Barron County much like Independence and Whitehall in Trempealeau County. New Auburn boasts a population of 548 people, 217 households, and 139 families residing in the village as couinted in the of 2010 census. WIKI
New Auburn experienced all of the contentiousness and local political battles of the introduction of frac sand mining and processing near their community months ago. The experience was very similar to the chain of events that has occurred in Whitehall and Independence. Yes. The very same events that have occurred in many other small towns and villages where people have met with the money and power of national corporate mining interests for the first time. Of course, the playing field is not level. Legal maneuvering follows the money, and “Oh” there is a lot of money to go around. Lawyers and money.
The mining interest won the battle in the village of New Auburn, and two sand mine facilities are now operating within a few miles of the small community. Of course, there were warnings from the few who showed up at meetings, who spent their own money and time to alert their neighbors to the proven dangers of silica sand mining…but they lost. It was not even close. The time and money available to the mining interests with lawyers on permanent retainer easily squashed the voices of opposition with promises of local jobs, a boost to the local economy, and the power to make a few people very, very wealthy.
The dangers of silica sand mining and the carcinogenic dust blown in the wind was dismissed by the village boards, city councils, and most of all, the folks getting the big checks. The dangers were dismissed as fabrications of fact, or a small risk to take when judged against the economic benefits offered by the mining operation.
Schools in heart of sand mine region face air quality threat
New Auburn — With four sand mines in operation within a few miles of New Auburn public schools, district officials have taken extra precautions to keep silica sand out of the building’s air system.
Superintendent Brian Henning says the district has been using higher-quality air filters at double the price, spending about $1,500 this school year.
West-central Wisconsin is a hot spot for sand mining and residents have expressed environmental and health concerns about the tiny sand particles generated by mining. The sand is mixed with chemicals in hydraulic fracturing — a high-pressure process used to extract natural gas and oil from the ground.
Henning tells the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram school officials took dust scrapings from the air filters and sent it to a Madison lab for testing. They found a small amount of silica on the filters.
This is the first of what is likely to be an ongoing learning curve defining how the effects of silica sand dust are a real threat to workers, families and children. The image at the right is a map of the location of the New Auburn Schools where silica sand dust was discovered in the air filtering system of the local school. The two sand mine operations are a few miles away in both directions. The image of the boy fishing is accompanied by a graphic display of how small particles can be ingested into the lungs – the smaller the particle the more easily it becomes lodged to cause permanent respiratory damage. A larger image and a more complete description of the dangers of particulate sand can be found at Trempealeau Fracne
Disregarding the County Warnings
After review of the health issues centering around silica sand mining, the Trempealeau County Board voted to impose a moratorium for one year to allow more time for further
investigation of the documented threats to the health of the residents of Trempealeau County. Not ten years or twenty years, but just one year. Hi Crush would not stand for it, and put the lawyers to work to research Wisconsin annexation laws, and persuade the land owners of Lincoln Township to sign petitions and confidentiality agreements so they could move ahead with the mine… not in a year…but now. As it stands, both of the city councils of Whitehall and Independence have voted to annex the huge tract of land so they could begin mining NOW.
The two maps at the right are lifted from a larger searchable map of frac sand sites in Wisconsin. The top map shows the proximity of the New Auburn schools in relation to sand mine operations. The lower map shows the proximity of the Independence schools in proximity to the Hi Crush mining operation.
The moratorium was not imposed to end the economic
development of the county, it was to take a pause to investigate the legitimacy of all of the ill effects of sand mining that had been researched and discovered in many other cities, and counties over the past months.
The majority of council members in both Whitehall and Independence have chosen to error on the side of risk. They have voted to disregard all of the downsides and health risks of families, neighbors, and children in favor of…What? Moving the time line of the mining operation a few months? A few months of active mining trumps a pause to investigate the danger of the dust drifting into the school venting systems in Whitehall and Independence?
A simple presentation of the effects of silica sand mining on the health and welfare of a community can be found at Barron County Silica Presentation. Baron is the county where the New Auburn School is located.