A new study suggests frac sand mining isn’t likely to cause health problems in people living near mining and processing facilities, although concerned citizens aren’t convinced.
The nonprofit Institute for Wisconsin's Health spent a year and $100,000 gathering research done by industry, the Department of Natural Resources and local governments. IWH health impact assessment specialist Audrey Boerner said evidence suggests frac sand mining isn’t likely to cause health problems due to silica dust inhalation or groundwater contamination.
"We found it was more likely that people could experience health effects from stress, from concern, from worry, from just a change to what used to be in their backyard," Boerner said.
Rich Budinger is a spokesman for the Wisconsin Industrial Sand Association who said the report clears the air surrounding sand mining.
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"It’s identified some actual, unbiased analysis that shows that a lot of the misinformation was unfounded and some fear had resulted from that," Budinger said.
Ken Schmitt is a farmer in New Auburn concerned about frac sand operations. He’s skeptical that silica dust isn’t a problem.
"When you see dirt blowing off a site, a dust cloud, and you can see it from several miles away, that creates questions in my mind," Schmitt said.
Some anti-frac sand mining groups are skeptical of the study because it relies partially on data from industry-sponsored research. The Wisconsin Industrial Sand Association called the report an unbiased response to misinformation about the industry.