Community members voice concern over proposed frac sand project

TOMAH, Wis. (WKBT) - People in the region are making their voices heard on a proposed frac sand project that would fill in more than 16 acres of wetlands.

About sixty people showed up to a Department of Natural Resources public hearing in Tomah Tuesday, and many shared concerns over how a frac sand plant could negatively impact public health and the environment.

However, the company proposing the project, Meteor Timber, said not only would the project be an economic boost, but it would help the environment as well.

Meteor Timber's $65 million proposed project includes a processing and loading plant along Interstate 94 in the town of Grant near the Monroe and Jackson County line.

"We've done an exhaustive search in the area of other sites and found no other viable sites for this project,” Meteor Timber spokesperson Evan Zeppos said.

Mike Sylla attended the meeting to share his experience living near a different frac sand plant. He built his house on his 60 acre farm in Trempeleau County nine years ago, before the frac sand company Hi-Crush joined the neighborhood just over half a mile from his house.

"We don’t use our water, we don’t drink our water,” he said. “We buy all out water now."

By looking at the discolored water, it’s easy to see why. Even after filtering, Sylla says he's had water issues in the past, and he believes it correlates with the frac mining near his home.

"If we keep disrupting the ground like this, it's at my house now, but how far is it going to spread?" Sylla said.

To prevent issues from spreading further, he made a trip to the Tomah public hearing, where the DNR listened to community members’ questions and concerns.

"It could be their opinions. It could also be substantive environmental issues we haven't thought of,” DNR wastewater specialist Brad Johnson said.
Speakers expressed concerns about fracking’s effects on humans, animals and the environment.

But Meteor Timber spokesperson Evan Zeppos said for the 16 wetland acres the project will impact, the company will protect more than 640 acres of land.

"We're pledged to adhere to highest standards, whether in water preservation, water quality standards, environmental enhancements, I'm confident we can meet or exceed the standards,” Zeppos said.

Sylla just wants to make sure everyone's water stays clean.

"I don't want to see any communities have to deal with this,” he said. “It's not just my water; it's everyone's water."

Sylla has tested his well water and is waiting on the results.

He said he has a lawyer and is currently working with the frac sand company near his house, which as noted, is not the company proposing the frac sand plant in Monroe County.

Johnson said the DNR will review public comments and issue a final decision on a permit for the project.

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