Health Concerns With Frac Sand Mining

Posted at: 03/07/2013 9:33 PM
Updated at: 03/07/2013 10:48 PM
By: Steph Crock

(ABC 6 News) -- A doctor took center stage talking with people about what he says are serious health concerns that can come from silica processing plants, likes the one that's proposed in St Charles.

Dr. Wayne Feyereisn works at the Mayo Clinic, but says he did this research all on his own time because it's something that affects a lot of people in southeastern Minnesota, and says there's a lot of misinformation out there.

"The processing plant along with all of the proposed mines in our region, traffic wise, safety wise, environmental wise," said concerned citizen Travis Lange. There are many concerns about how silica, or “frac sand” mining, can impact the environment, but now we're learning how it could damage our health.

"It can cause silicosis and it can cause cancer," said Dr. Feyereisn. He came forward with a pile of research he did on his own time, finding some alarming effects from breathing in silica sand. "It can cause various inflammatory conditions such as Wegener's Granulo Amortises, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Lupus," said Dr. Feyereisn

He says during processing, particles of the precious sand can get into the air. His concern is over the size of silica particles. "It can get down into the fine recesses of the lungs, the small alveoli (air sacs) and that’s where it starts to cause the problems," he said.

We spoke with the company behind the project a couple months back, they say it's not harmful. "It's been done decades upon decades and it’s safer now than it has ever been," said Jennifer Dessner with Minnesota Proppant, LLC.

Other states such as California actually have tight regulations around excavating sites, closely monitoring the amount of particles in the air. Minnesota does not. "The standard in California is 3 micrograms per meter cubed. Minnesota sounds like they will be adopting that standard," said Dr. Feyereisn

Though the company says it’s ok, hearing this certainly makes some residents uneasy. "We just have no idea what's going to happen," said Lange

Dr. Feyereisn also said in addition to the silica sand, there would be an enormous increase in trucking. The diesel in the air, and risk of crashes also creates a hazard.

We attempted to contact the company for a second interview today but did not hear back.