University of Iowa may not help with health-impact study of mining
Wednesday, June 12, 2013 3:54 AM
The University of Iowa may not be able to help with a health-impact study on the effects of frac-sand mining in Winneshiek County.
The Winneshiek County Protectors, an organization which was recently formed to monitor frac-sand mining in the county, has asked the University of Iowa to do a health-impact study on the possible effects of frac-sand mining in the county, however there are no resources available for such a study. Such a study could include both air-quality and groundwater quality evaluations; however, Peters said there is no money to pay for additional air-quality monitorying in the state.
At Monday's meeting of the Winneshiek County Board of Supervisors, Tom Peters of the University of Iowa College of Public Health discussed the possibility of a Winneshiek County health-impact study with the Board.
The Winneshiek County Protectors have been in discussions with the U of I regarding the study, and last week, the Board passed an 18-month moratorium on the issuance of new permits for frac-sand mining in the county, so further study of the issue could be completed.
He said the U of I currently has eight air-quality monitors set up in the state and it is unlikely they will be setting up more.
"The reason is resources are slim. There is not a lot of money and it's expensive to buy a sampler. You have to have a person go out and measure that filter. It's an expensive proposition," said Peters.
Barring coming up with additional funding for an original study in Northeast Iowa, Peters recommended Winneshiek County look to its neighbors in Minnesota and Wisconsin.
"Unless there are resources I don't know about, I think learning from what's being done in Wisconsin or partnering with Wisconsin is the best approach to try to get something done," he said.
Peters discussed two major air-quality studies that have already been completed in Wisconsin: the first by Dr. Crispin Pierce, associate professor of environmental public health at the University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire, and the second by EOG Industries, one of the largest independent oil and gas companies in the United States.
Peters discussed the study by EOG Industries, which sampled upwind and downwind readings from four, large sand-mining operations, and Pierce's study, which he said did not make use of DNR-approved sampling equipment.
"More measurements are needed using regulatory methods ... The company (EOG) has done the biggest work. The University of Wisconsin study is not as compatible with regulatory methods," he said.
Peters said his biggest concerns about frac-sand mining are those operations near highly populated areas, citing, "Mines near town, transfer stations in town, trucking through town and worker exposure."
He said in his experience, "bigger mines" have better oversight, as there is more involved in permitting and they have to follow more requirements, such as hauling sand with covers over their trucks.
"I think it's critical if you have a moratorium on mining here that you try to study smaller operations," said Peters.
Board Chairman John Logsdon said in his opinion there are pros and cons (to frac-sand mining) and then there is "legislative reality."
"Wisconsin and Minnesota's Legislatures are miles ahead of us, with regard to extraction fees, where they assess the mining company an amount of money times the amount of miles. All this is fine and good, but the secondary road situation is what concerns me," said Logsdon.
When Supervisor Dean Thompson asked Peters what he suggested the Board should "watch" in Wisconsin, Peters said he thinks the county should try to partner with Wisconsin and/or Minnesota to "bolster what they're doing in order to get the information you need ... I'd get together a workshop with people who have moratoriums. Have a workshop where there are people like me and people who deal with these different aspects of it."
Although the Board has also discussed partnering with Winneshiek County Conservation to have U of I do an economic impact study on frac-sand mining, no mention was made of it during the meeting.