Committee approves sand mine expansionAfter a good deal of research, debate and delays, a Pierce County committee voted this week to allow the expansion of the sand mine in Maiden Rock.
By: Danielle Killey, The Republican Eagle
ELLSWORTH -- After a good deal of research, debate and delays, a Pierce County committee voted this week to allow the expansion of the sand mine in Maiden Rock.
The Pierce County Land Management Committee approved on Wednesday a permit that allows Wisconsin Industrial Sand Co. to expand its operation by 538 acres in rural Maiden Rock.
The expansion had been a point of concern for some residents, prompting a lengthy public hearing in December and many letters and comments sent to both the committee and the company. Concerns included potential air and water pollution, possible decreases in the value of properties near the mine and the effects of blasting on nearby homes and wells.
The company mines and processes a rare type of sand used by oil and gas companies in their operations.
Fred Harding, who lives in Maiden Rock, said he wasn't surprised the committee approved the permit. He said while he was disappointed with some aspects of the final conditions, he hopes mine officials will continue to work with residents to ensure the mine is safe and has minimal impact on citizens' daily lives.
"We're not trying to close the mine down," Harding said. "What we are trying to do is make the mine an equal responsible partner in the community."
The committee was set to vote on the expansion in December, but delayed the decision to gather more information about the concerns raised by the public.
Committee members said Wednesday they believe the company has sufficiently addressed all their questions and concerns.
"There are always good reasons not to do things," said committee Chair Paul Barkla, "but at some point decisions have to be made, and we do our best."
Still, some residents said they wished the committee had taken more time before making its decision.
After the December meeting, the committee gathered public comments, which were then sent to Wisconsin Industrial Sand for consideration and a response. The company's report came to committee members Monday night, a time frame Maiden Rock resident Mike Michaud said didn't allow for enough contemplation before Wednesday's meeting.
"I wish (the committee) had taken more time to vet the information," he said.
Many of the residents' concerns can still be addressed as situations arise.
For example, if citizens have complaints about blasting, the permit allows for restrictions to be implemented. The company will test the water quality for residential wells within the mine's boundaries annually.
Also, regional manager Rich Budinger said the company will continue to meet with the citizen advisory committee it established to hear concerns and comments from residents.
The Pierce County committee's approval only applies to expansion within the Town of Maiden Rock. The Village of Maiden Rock will make its own decision regarding a proposed 369-acre expansion on its land.
Harding said living close to the mine, which operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, has been a nuisance at times. But he said the company is working to reduce the impact some of its processes have on residents.
"That's one of the things that has come out of the conversations with the mine, and that's what we want to have happen," Harding said. "We want to find common ground and work from there."