Last night, I attended the Lime Township Board Meeting. I don't live in Lime Township, but my boyfriend Tom does, and I spend more than half my time in that township, so I was interested.
Why? Because Coughlan Companies (yes, the publishing company) owns Jordan Sand, which wants to put in a new silica sand processing plant less than a mile from Tom's house.
The boardroom was packed.
Concerns raised last night:
AIR QUALITY--you can't process 200 railroad cars of sand a week without some dust, now, can you? The Jordan reps insist that there will be "NO DUST." Really? They say it's like beach sand--no dust. "Ambient dust is NOT an issue." Have you ever walked on the beach when the tide is out and returned with NO residue on your feet? I haven't. I don't get that argument. And silica dust is dangerous. More on that later. Besides that, at least one of the roads to access the plant and quarry is gravel. No dust? really?
TRAFFIC: 3rd Avenue already has heavy truck traffic. There are several Kasota stone quarries on the road, and trucks make traffic sketchy at best, noisy and dangerous in reality. The new processing plant would add one truck every 2 MINUTES for 10 hours a day, 5 days a week. The route is short--the quarry where they're pulling the sand for the first 5 years is very close...but that still means 350 trucks making round-trips (that's 600-700 truck trips) making left turns 30 times an hour in a short distance. Plus, at least one of the roads on the route is gravel and already deteriorating. Dust?
PLUS, they either have not determined, or refuse to disclose where they'll be getting their sand in five years. The route from quarry to plant cannot and will not be shorter. That's guaranteed.
NOISE: Jordan officials insist that the plant will be quiet, and gave us decibel statistics about how quiet the operation would be. That does NOT include truck noise, train noise (two 100-car trains a week), truck backing-up beeps, workers coming to and from, etc., etc.
WATER: The Jordan sand plant will drill an industrial well, probably 350 feet deep. Residents affected by the Holtmeier plant have experienced well contamination, and they were told they would not be affected. We were told last night that residential wells shouldn't be affected because they are rarely that deep. Kathy (of Kathy's Bait shop) interjected that hers is 335 feet deep. How can hers not be affected, and water is a source of her livelihood. The officials tried to tell us that the plant will be a closed loop; that is, the water will be reused after washing the sand and used in the slurry to wash away impurities. Part of the hauling will be reduced by an under-road pipeline to pump slurry back to the quarry. However, because there will be constant water loss from evaporation, etc., their new well will need the ability to pump 400 gallons a minute. Do the math. That's over half a million gallons a day.
And that won't affect the water tables for area residents?
Jordan officials said anyone concerned should "register their well" and then these wells will be monitored. If a change occurs and Jordan is deemed responsible (who determines this??? nobody knows, it seems), they are responsible to replace the well. And what good does that do, I wonder, if available water tables are all contaminated???
OTHER ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTS: Several acres of wetlands will be affected...destroyed, effectively. Coughlan promises to eventually return these to the community by building a park on land fill areas from the gleaned sand contaminents. Great. That really replaces wetlands where wildlife have lived safely for centuries. The last plant (another company) promised the same thing, but now Jordan Sand is going to be building on the site of their promised park which negates the former contract to return to the community...so that doesn't exactly build residents' trust now, does it?
The final arguments actually used Mankato economic development arguments that the plant would bring jobs to town (only 35 that are not contracted out!!!) and would add $1.8 million dollars a year to the local economy. REALLY? The residents affected by all the above quality of life issues care about the Mankato economy? And Coughlans will be raking in billions, none of which the area residents will ever see except that the tax base for the township will be supported. That's just great because the residents will most likely watch their home values plummet. Who wants to live next to a giant sand plant?
The Jordan folks sited what great neighbors UNIMEN makes. Yeah, because they bought out ALL their neighbors. Nobody lives there anymore.
The Jordan folks have invested millions and a year's time to get to this point, and somehow wanted residents' township board to approve their Conditional Use permit, with conditions attached, which Jordan pledged to honor. Conditions attached at this point--before the meeting--numbered 27, and afterward, skyrocketed. The Permit was tabled for further research on both sides.
Finally, an issue that seems crucial to the entire question is a moral one. However, nobody intimately involved in all of the above quality of life issues can care about this because the above concerns are only a few steps higher on the life food chain than basic survival.
But I want to know: DOESN'T ANYBODY CARE THAT ALL THIS SAND IS GOING TO BE USED FOR FRACKING???
Do a little research on FRACKING. Fracking is destroying water tables and shale layers under the earth to glean every bit of natural gas we can get. Often, fracking is done under people's land. Fracking can drill a mile down and 5 to 7 miles across under homeowners land--homeowners who often don't even know that they do NOT own mineral rights beneath their land, until their water supply has been contaminated. Have you seen the videos of people who turn on their kitchen sinks, hold a lighter to the tap, and their water bursts into flame because of the high gas content?
INSTEAD of cleaning Frac sand and Fracking, why aren't we starting to invest money in alternative energies? Our nation in particular is SO dependent upon oil and gas. These gas and oil companies have more money than god and can squash research like that done on the electric car. Eventually, we'll run out of oil and gas resources, and then we'll HAVE to find other energy sources. Why not do that now instead of ruining every single last place on and within the earth?
The whole thing makes me sad and more than a little sick. What a badge of honor to live in the area that supplies the most fracking sand in the country.