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Citizens voice concern over frac sand industry

More than 250 people attend the Citizens' Frac Sand Summit in Winona

WINONA, Wis. (WKBT) - The number of frac sand mines in the area has exploded in recent years, but resident have some concerns about the growing industry.

Frac sand mining offers an economic advantage to our area, from creating more jobs to putting money back into the local economy.  It is no secret there are profits to be made, but concerned citizens want to know at what cost to them.

"I'm a life-long resident and my family has been in Houston County for 148 years," said Marilyn Frauenkronbayer, a resident of Minnesota.  She grew up on a farm that has been passed down from generation to generation.

"It's a century farm.  Our relatives have lived on that farm for well over 100 years," said Frauenkronbayer.

A proposed frac sand mine in a neighboring county brought her to the Citizens' Frac Sand Summit in Winona on Saturday to get more information about the growing business.  Like other residents there, she's got some questions.


"There is grave concern regarding health issues with particulate matter," said Frauenkronbayer.  "It isn't what you think of as sand like in a child's sandbox.  These are one-hundredth the diameter of a human hair, so you can't see them."

Steven Schild, a resident of Winona, brings up another major concern.

"This industry could do damage, irreparable damage, to the very nature of this very special place," said Schild. "Once it is gone, it's gone."

Schild said the industry doesn't have enough regulation.

"This is such a new, complicated and multi-faceted issue that the government and current regulations are not set up to adequately deal with the way that this industry goes across jurisdictions," said Schild.

Commissioner John Linc Stine with the Pollution Control Agency in Minnesota said he has a responsibility to implement the laws of the state.

"On a personal level, I can feel for these people who are concerned about their property and the legacy of their land," said Linc Stine.

However, it is also his job to work on behalf of everyone in Minnesota.

"Including the people who have a business to operate and an economy to grow," said Linc Stine.

He agrees more research needs to be done.

"Let's talk about the accumulative and holistic impact on an area before decisions are made," said Linc Stine.

Giving Frauenkronbayer more time to prepare for what lies ahead.

"We have eight generations that have been blessed to live in Houston County and we would like to see the generations to come have that opportunity to enjoy what we have as well," said Frauenkronbayer.

For the past two years people in southeastern Minnesota have been hearing from companies who want to buy their land for new frac sand mines. However, researchers said more testing needs to be done to make sure it is safe for everyone in the long run.

Right now there are 11 proposed frac sand mining sites in southeastern Minnesota.

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