Frac sand mining could soon be banned in Houston County

Dozens voice opinion about frac sand mining at final public hearing over new mining ordinance

Dozens of people voiced their concerns Wednesday morning about frac sand mining in Houston County.

A final public hearing regarding a mineral extraction ordinance, which would impose tighter rules and regulations on sand mining in the county, was held Wednesday.

The proposed ordinance covers three types of mining: construction, agricultural and industrial mining, which most consider frac sand mining.

The public hearing attracted a long line of commenters, nearly all of them opposing frac sand mining.

“I would prefer that industrial sand mining in Houston County be banned,” Houston County resident Alan Stankevitz said.

Audrey Alfson and her two children, who moved to Houston County from Alaska, waited their turn in the long line. Alfson said she saw the negative impacts the oil and gas industries had on the Alaskan landscape, and she doesn’t want frac sand mining to have a similar effect here.

“You cannot replace damaged water, aquifers, blufftops that have been raised, they just don’t get replaced easily. And the companies, if you let them in, they have no reason to do anything other than what they’re designed to do — take as much as they can, as quickly as they can, as cheaply as they can,” Alfson said.

Other citizens who agreed with Alfson, voiced their opposition in song. Houston County resident Bill Bovee brought along his guitar and sang, “This Land is Your Land.”

However, there were a few in the audience who did not want to see a ban on frac sand mining.

“Hopefully you will not ban the frac sand mining. I think it’s important to have industry in our area, and I certainly don’t see the bluffs disappearing or that sort of thing,” county resident Carol Grahek said.

It took three hours for everyone at the meeting to voice their opinion.

When the public hearing was closed, the county commissioners made changes to the language of the ordinance. One of the changes adds industrial mining, frac sand mining, to the list of prohibited activities under the new ordinance.

Now it’s up to county commissioners to decide how they want to handle the issue.

“I want to do the right thing,” said Steve Schuldt, the board’s chair. “If we are going to eliminate or ban it, we need to have a proper way of doing it without infringing on other people’s rights, land owner rights.”

The main concerns of those against frac sand mining are health concerns, the destruction of the bluffs and possible damage to nature.

The Houston County public health director told the commissioners that frac sand mining is the single most important public health decision in Houston County history.

The county attorney will review the ordinance this week.

The county board expects to vote on the ordinance on Tuesday.