The Institute for Wisconsin’s Health, an independent, non-partisan public health institute, released a Health Impact Assessment (HIA) researching the potential health impacts of industrial sand mining in western Wisconsin.
The study combines health expertise, scientific data and input from businesses, community members and organizations offering recommendations to minimize potential health risks, while maximizing potential health benefits.
According to the study, health effects from the impact of industrial sand mining on community-level air quality related to PM10 are unlikely. In addition, it is unlikely that community members will be exposed to respirable crystalline silica from industrial sand mining as currently regulated; therefore, health effects from exposure are unlikely. Data collected at several facilities in the upper Midwest do not indicate that health-based standards have been exceeded in regard to these potential pollutants.
The study also notes that health effects (positive or negative) from reclamation of industrial sand mines are unlikely. No community-level health effects from reclaimed industrial sand mines in Wisconsin have been identified, and reclamation plans implemented in accordance with NR 135 are likely to prevent health hazards at a mine site.
Health effects from impacts to land value from an industrial sand facility are possible. The potential for health effects is highly site specific and depends on a range of factors. The most likely negative health effects due to impacts to land value are feelings of stress for landowners who want to sell their property, especially if they are experiencing difficulties. Impacts to land value are expected to be localized, and not community-wide.
According to the study, the potential for health effects from impacts to groundwater quantity is possible. Industrial sand mining facilities that withdraw groundwater have the potential to impact surrounding wells and surface water features. However, these impacts are highly site specific and localized. If health effects do occur, the most common effects are expected to be related to stress or anxiety experienced by a limited number of individuals.
Health effects from contaminant impacts to groundwater quality are unlikely. In the event that water-soluble polymers are released into groundwater, impurities are expected to readily degrade and would be significantly diluted before they could come in contact with drinking water users near industrial sand sites.
“Prior to this assessment, there had not been a comprehensive study that looked at the potential health risks and benefits of industrial sand mining on a community level. We are grateful for the assistance of all the business, community, and scientific representatives that assisted us with this effort and are very pleased to share the report with our project partners and the public. We hope that it will be valuable resource for policy makers and community members alike,” said Nancy Young, executive director of the Institute for Wisconsin’s Health.
The Institute for Wisconsin’s Health collaborated with 14 local health departments, the Ho-Chunk Nation Department of Health, the University of Iowa’s Environmental Health Research Center, sand mining industry representatives, expert reviewers and community members over the past year to gather and analyze information on the potential health benefits and risks of industrial sand mining in western Wisconsin.
Participating health departments include Barron, Buffalo, Chippewa, Clark, Dunn, Eau Claire, Ho-Chunk Nation, Jackson, LaCrosse, Monroe, Pepin, Pierce, St. Croix, Rusk, and Trempealeau counties.
“Our health department is committed to keeping our community informed and healthy. This assessment takes a fair and balanced look at the health impacts of industrial sand mining in our area and adds an important voice to the discussion. We plan to use its findings to inform our citizens and to help ensure that Trempealeau County remains a healthy place to live, work, and play,” said Sherry Rhoda, health officer of the Trempealeau County Health Department.
“At the beginning of this assessment process, we committed to providing an unbiased and scientific assessment of the potential positive and negative health impacts of industrial sand mining. Community members as well as health and environmental experts contributed to this process and developed recommendations that will support community health,” added Audrey Boerner, health impact assessment specialist with the Institute for Wisconsin’s Health.
The report, “Health Impact of Industrial Sand Mining in Western Wisconsin,” can be found at www.instituteforwihealth.org/hia.html.