Minnesota Forum Focuses on Frac Sand

The city of Red Wing, Minn., centered its quarterly forum on silica sand. The meeting featured representatives from the Department of Natural Resources, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, Minnesota Department of Transportation, Minnesota Department of Health and Environmental Quality Board.

The forum covered topics that concern local citizens, such as air quality, water quality and other effects on the environment, according to a report by the Red Wing Republican Eagle.

“Nationally, silica sand isn’t found in very many places,” said Heather Arends, industrial mineral supervisor with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. “The source of silica sand is very isolated to Minnesota and Wisconsin.”

Some silica sand can also be found in Iowa and Illinois, she noted. “There are eight silica mines operating for frac sand within Minnesota,” Arends said. “One in Le Sueur County has been functioning for more than 30 years, and several more mining companies throughout the state are looking to start up.”

Wendy Turri, municipal wastewater manager for the MPCA, said the agency has learned a lot since Goodhue County held a silica sand forum about a year ago. The MPCA is working to figure out what method it should use for monitoring silica sand. Still, with no standard by which to measure air quality around a silica sand mine, it can’t yet be determined how much of a health risk the operations pose to the communities they’re in, she added.

“There just isn’t a lot of information so we don’t know is it a problem or not,” she said.