Silica sand facility would be a ‘nightmare’

To the editor

So here’s where my nightmare begins. I recently returned home from Tioga, North Dakota, where I worked for two years in the oil fields. I came back to North Branch to enjoy a safe and quiet life. With property values returning, and jobs more plentiful, things were looking good until I heard that the city wants to put a silica sand trans-loading station in my back yard. Hasn’t anyone here learned of the hazards? Are the citizens of Chisago County prepared to pay for roads that crumble under the weight of hundreds of semis hauling frac-sand? I can’t absorb 30-percent depreciation on my home as a result of this type of development in my neighborhood.

Warning: Abrasive blasting with sands containing crystalline silica can cause serious fatal respiratory disease. Am I dreaming? If I am, then it’s a nightmare. Hundreds of trucks loaded with silica sand, driving day and night, on roads that now look more like the geysers of Yellowstone. Then there are the hundreds of trains hauling silica sand. Residual piles of silica sand everywhere, alongside the road, on train tracks, emitting silica dust. A byproduct of frac sand mining, silica dust, is a known human carcinogen. Silica dust blows off mine sites and off trucks and trains transporting frac sand, creating an emission known as “fugitive dust.” Although efforts can be taken to reduce the amount of fugitive silica sand dust that enters the air, such fugitive dust is still likely to enter the lungs. Seventy-five people have died of silicosis in Wisconsin between 1996 and 2005. Most of these victims were mining and manufacturing workers, but this demographic could change as more citizens are exposed to higher levels of silica dust outside the workplace.

One of the only ways to prevent silicosis is to avoid sources of silica dust.

This will be nearly impossible for families whose homes and communities are increasingly surrounded by frac-sand mines and mine transportation routes that emit silica dust. I didn’t move to North Branch to live next to a frac-sand development. Did you?

Nick Tappe

North Branch 


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