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People meet with state agencies Wednesday night at Illinois Valley Community College during an open house regarding the permit process for Mississippi Sand to extract sand immediately east of Starved Rock State Park on the south side of the Illinois River.
NewsTribune photo/Jeff Dankert
To submit comments
Send comments, postmarked by June 7, to: Illinois EPA, Brad Frost, Office of Community Relations, 1021 N. Grand Ave. E., PO Box 19506, Springfield, IL 62794-9506. The phone number is (217) 782-7027, and the email is email@example.com.
A meeting Wednesday in Oglesby brought together the public, state regulators and a company hoping to start mining sand just east of Starved Rock State Park. The three-hour open house at Illinois Valley Community College allowed visitors to meet with officials with the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Natural Resources, Historic Preservation Agency and owners and consultants with Mississippi Sand LLC based in Maryland Heights, Mo. Some residents are worried about the effect on natural resources and park and health risks from dust. The company says it would protect air and water quality and create about 40 jobs. In January the LaSalle County Board granted a special use permit to Mississippi Sand. That was the first in a long series of hurdles. No one at Wednesday’s meeting could predict a timeline. According to agencies, those hurdles include: -Two National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits from the EPA Bureau of Water. The first is for controlling runoff during construction and the second would be for day-to-day control and discharges of water during mining operations. Dan Heacock, manager of the facility evaluation unit of the EPA Bureau of Water, said regulation at the mining site will focus on water used to wash sand but that chemicals will not generally be present. - One DNR surface mining/reclamation permit, prior to digging for sand. The proposed mining area is 80 acres and the DNR has 120 days to review the permit application and approve or deny it. Any new mining beyond the 80-acre parcel would need further permitting. - One permit from the EPA Bureau of Air prior to construction. This permit does not regulate emissions from mining. The company plans to use air controls like baghouses and enclosures and to keep the sand moist to prevent dust, but must adhere to guidelines for airborn particulate matter, the EPA said. - The EPA must consult with the Historic Preservation Agency to make sure no significant historic artifacts are destroyed or lost from construction and mining. If the property is deemed archaeologically significant, a professional excavation likely will collect material. The historical review cannot stop a project, the EPA said. - The DNR must be consulted to identify any adverse impacts to natural resources protected by state endangered species and natural areas preservation acts. It is the DNR’s opinion that the mining is unlikely to adversely affect essential habitat of any state-listed plants or animals on adjoining natural areas, but will adversely impact Ernat’s Marsh on the private property the company owns. The DNR advised the project to avoid discharging water into the marsh. Keith Shank, consultation program manager with the DNR’s Division of Ecosystems and Environment, said his consultation on species and natural areas carries no power to stop the sand mine, because the law in this case provides no property authority to the state within the site. Shank’s consultation is required by law, but the company could ignore it without breaking the law, Shank said. Shank’s recommendations must be consistent with an outcome that allows the mine, he said. In Ernat’s Marsh, there are no threatened or endangered plants or animals, Shank said. “There is no evidence of endangered species living anywhere in this property right now,” Shank said. Mississippi Sand wants to sell the sand to drilling companies, which use the spherical grains to free natural gas from underground deposits. The sand here is ideal for hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” a controversial mining technique that releases gas from bedrock. Charlie Zeal, unit manager with the EPA Bureau of Air, said frac sand is in such high demand that Wisconsin has issued more than 60 mining permits in the last few years. Mississippi Sand plans to truck the sand east along Route 71 to gbarge and rail terminals for shipping, said company president Tony Giordano. Most of the sand will go to natural gas extraction sites in Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas and Colorado, he said. Illinois Sierra Club sent out a press release this week alerting people to the meeting. The club said the LaSalle County Board placed silica sand mining above the health of residents. “The economic downturn has caused a panic that has influenced our county board and public officials into making rash decisions not in the best interest of the community,” Katie Troccoli, a real-estate agent in Ottawa, said in the press release. “I think we have a quality location and workforce that allows us to be selective about who we invite to our community. Mississippi Sand is planning to harm our natural areas which bring in valuable revenue to the area. LaSalle County does not need that kind of business.” Joseph Standing Bear Schranz of Midwest SOARRING Foundation in Chicago came to ask about preservation of Indian artifacts. “Up and down the river our people had massive villages,” he said, adding that he is a half-blood Ojibwa. He doesn’t want artifacts and burial mounds transplanted to faraway museums. Company president Giordano said permits have been issued by the state for similar operations, but in this case considerable public attention has engaged agencies like never before with mining permits. La Salle County currently is home to 18 aggregate (stone, rock, sand, gravel) mining operations, according to the DNR. Giordano pointed to a map that showed a silica sand mine immediately east of the proposed site and a clay mine at Routes 178 and 71 just a few hundred yards from the park. Dave Tolley, a heavy equipment operator from Utica who works in local mines and is a member of Operating Engineers Local 150, wants the state to allow the mine. “We’re hoping that the project will go through to create some more jobs and boost the economy in the area,” Tolley said. The meeting was held after the EPA discussed the issue with the governor’s office and because of the number of agencies involved and public interest in the project, said Maggie Carson, spokeswoman for the Illinois EPA. “All of these agencies and permits, they are all separate requirements and all on their own track and they’re all independent of each other,” she said.
Posted: Thursday, May 24, 2012
Article comment by:
This issue is bigger than just our area. In addition to the possible environmental and human dangers, the rush to mine is driven by the market. States are investigating and in one case, outlawing "fracking." The dangers to health of people, animals and the land are not to be taken lightly. Trusting a company for profit to protect the general welfare is questionable. Search the stories of the effects of "fracking" and question whether you wish to contribute to others' ill health. We are responsible for each other. If this mining goes forward, write the agreement so that the area benefits from the excessive profit and pays for all long term damage to the environment and the health of the people, animals and plants. Perhaps detailed restoration plans with a time table and penalty clause if not done would ease the situation. It is our opportunity to create jobs that benefit all. We can be that resourceful.
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