University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire's Watershed Institute presents frac sand mining research

By Gary Garvin

Preceding the monthly District 1 Area Meeting on Feb. 13, community members enjoyed a meal and listened attentively to a presentation covering the topic of frac sand mining.
Tenured professor Dr. Crispin Pierce and students of the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire’s Watershed Institution presented their research and the concerns they have about frac sand mining.
According to Orion Allgaiere, a Junior student in the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire’s Watershed Institute, the group has conducted air quality sampling around Wisconsin. The students ¬have measured particulate matter in the air using PurpleAir’s Air Pollution Monitors.
As stated by Dr. Pierce, PurpleAir’s Air Pollution Monitors are different to the air pollution monitors currently used by Monroe County. PurpleAir’s Air Pollution Monitors allow for people living locally near the frac sand mines to measure the particulate matter in the air in real time.
“The Monroe monitors from what I understand, I’m sure they are collecting good data, but I would want people living in the area to say ‘I can look right now today and see what is going on in my backyard’ and that's what these monitors will allow people to do,” said Dr. Pierce.
“We’ve seen increases [in particulate matter] due to sand mining operations around us, but particulate matter is found naturally in the environment. If you are walking you can pick up some particulate air matter also while driving trucks and working in agriculture,” Algaiere said.
The primary concern the students shared during the presentation were the public health risks the particulate air matter creates. “It’s a human health hazard. If you are inhaling those particles over long periods of time you can see irritation of the airways, some difficulty breathing and then some more serious health effects such as lung cancer,” Allgaiere said.
 “And depending on the intensity of the exposure - permanent lung damage. Our focus has been to put that information out there, to publish and present our findings and to bridge that gap between what people know and what people don’t know,” Allgaiere said.
The students were asked to give their presentation to community members due to the number of frac sand mines located near Ho-Chunk communities. “There is a lot of frac sand mining going on around Tomah and in Monroe County,” said Dr. Pierce.
According to Aleah Anderson, a Junior student in the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire’s Watershed Institute, there is a large quantity of frac sand mines located in Wisconsin because of the kind of sand in the area and the specific density of it. “It’s the goldilocks sand, it’s the perfect sand for fracking,” Anderson said.
Dr. Peirce and the students of the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire’s Watershed Institute expressed sentiments of gratitude to the Ho-Chunk Nation and appreciated the opportunity to share information to community members.