By MaryHelen Swanson—
The newest industrial operation in North Branch takes shape more and more everyday. Tiller Corporation’s site north of town along County Road 30 (Forest Blvd.) is being prepared for an industrial sand drying operation that is to begin in early summer.
Mike Caron, Director of Land Use Affairs for Tiller, shared some more information with the Post Review about what’s happening out there and what folks can expect in the coming months.
Caron explained that when the operation begins they will be drying, sorting, and screening sand. It’s dried first, he noted, then divided into four different sizes.
The sand is coming from approximately a 25-mile radius, he said, and when ready for use will be hauled away by train, although some will be moved by truck.
He acknowledged that the silica sand will be used for the fracking process, but also used in other industrial processes.
Fracking, as explained in an article last week, is a slang term for hydraulic fracturing, a process used to get oil or natural gas out of the ground.
The facility being built at the site along CR 30 and 415th Street, is not a temporary facility, Caron assures, and the plan is to start testing the plant in early spring.
It will be a 24-hour operation, and there will be trucking to the site 7 a.m. – 7 p.m. Monday – Friday. But they do not anticipate trucking overnight, he noted.
The number of trucks is expected to be 15 per hour every day.
The train will be coming in every day, Caron continued, although Tiller has no control over the rail operation. That is done by St. Croix Valley Railroad.
The dried and sorted sand will travel to places like Texas, North Dakota, maybe even Pennsylvania, where ever the material is needed, Caron said.
“The business we’re in is supplying construction material,” he went on.
At the time Tiller applied for and was approved for a Conditional Use Permit by the city of North Branch, it was explained that there might also be an asphalt plant on site at times.
Caron confirmed this last week saying they have about 20 acres at the site and don’t need it all. At times they may bring in a portable asphalt plant to supply local projects.
Concerns about noise and dust
Caron was asked about the amount of noise and dust that will be present. He said regarding noise, Tiller must abide by MPCA regulations for air quality, which includes noise, and will be within the parameters of those rules.
Likewise, they must abide by the MPCA regs for dust.
Similar to an asphalt plant, Caron continued, they are not expecting much noise and dust.
On site will be two silos to load sand to the rail cars, and two for loading to trucks. There will also be a storage silo. The large building with the canvas-like roof is a storage facility for material, but some will be stored outside, Caron noted.
Asked about fencing, Caron noted that the site will be gated for security and that some personnel will be on site almost all the time, all year round.