New standards could shape frac sand regulations - KTTC Rochester, Austin, Mason City News, Weather and Sports

New standards could shape frac sand regulations

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ST. PAUL, Minn. (KTTC) -- At least eleven new silica sand mines have been proposed across Southeastern Minnesota.

Now the state Environmental Quality Board is putting together a set of guidelines that could apply to frac sand mines across the state.

These draft model standards are being put together because of a law passed during the 2013 legislative session.

Local governments can choose to use them to create guidelines for mines, but they're not enforced by any state body.

It's an industry that has filled the streets and inspired protests, now silica sand mining has filled a board room in Saint Paul.

"They're government officials," said Vince Ready, one of the men testifying in the room. "They're attorneys, nurses, physicians."

And they're in St. Paul to testify about frac sand mining in front of the Minnesota Environmental Quality Board.

"Providing evidence for the health hazards associated with silica mining, what reasonable standards should exist when you do blasting and transportation and so on," Ready said.

The board is putting together a set of Draft Model Standards and Criteria for Silica Sand Activities -- a set of recommendations to local governments based on scientific findings.

They already have the initial draft published, but the board still has a lot to do.

"Its based on outdated, for instance some of the standards are similar to aggregate mining, and a gravel mine and a strip mine for silica are entirely different," Ready said.

Once the standards are done, city, county and township governments can use the Draft Model Standards to create regulations for Frac Sand Mines -- if they want.

For many in Southeastern Minnesota, the issue is pressing.

Eleven frac sand mines have been proposed by one company, many clustered around Saratoga township and stretching over near Rushford and Houston.

"That's where I live," Ready said. "Right in the epicenter there."

That's what brings people out into the streets, into the cold, and now into the board room.

"That's not very good for somebody who is 65-years-old to be told they'd be living next to an industrial park for 20 years," Ready said.

The board is expected to have the final draft standards complete by February.

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