To: Buffalo County Board of Adjustment
From: Marcie O’Connor
Re: Opposition to the “Seven Sands” Mine application
Date: September 17, 2012
I strongly oppose the Seven Sands frac sand mine application. I hope you will deny this permit.
The haul route for this mine would go south on County Road E to Highway 88, and south to Highway 35. County Road E is a small, county road, mainly used by local traffic, farm trucks, and farm implements. Highway 88 is a narrow, hilly, winding road, with many blind hills and intersections. Neither of these roads is suited to accommodating hundreds of heavy trucks daily.
A DOT study of Highway 88 found that large trucks must cross the double yellow centerline in numerous places in order to make the turns. That isn’t as much of a problem when only a few trucks are on the road at one time, but with hundreds of trucks, this would become a significant safety issue.
Slow moving vehicles are common on both these roads. Many of the farm vehicles that use the roads are extra wide, and moving very slowly. It’s difficult to pass wide vehicles, especially if the conditions or visibility are bad. Coming over a blind hill in a heavy truck, it would be difficult to avoid a wide slow-moving farm implement.
School busses use these roads, with numerous stops to drop off children. The busses use the roads, not just the hour or so that the mining company proposes to stop their trucks, but often at other times of day to take children to and from activities.
Until studies are done to show that these safety issues have been addressed, you should deny this permit.
Environment and Public Health
There are significant concerns that this mine would damage the quality of both air and water in the area around the mine. These mines are very new, and no one is sure what the potential health effects might be.
To protect the citizens of the county, you should have as much information as possible about their effects, and be doing monitoring of both air and water so that if there is a problem, it can be fixed before it’s too late.
Water is particularly a problem with the wet processing plant that is included in the Seven Sands proposal. These plants use large quantities of ground water, and produce wastewater which is full of chemicals. The mining companies have been unclear about how much water will be used, and have not disclosed the chemicals it will be using.
The Buffalo County Health Department issued a preliminary report in August, with recommendations on these issues. These include monitoring, and periodic reviews of the CUP, to be able to incorporate new standards and information as we all learn more about these mines.
Until these concerns are met, the safety issues are resolved, and you can adequately protect the land and the citizens of Buffalo County, you should deny this permit.
There are significant economic concerns about the proposed mine operations in the county. These were discussed in the preliminary report of the Buffalo County Extension Office issued in late August.
These mining operations are offering a new kind of economic development, but there is other economic activity going on in the county already. The county should carefully consider the effects that the mining may have on both agriculture, and the growing tourist industry.
If there are conflicts, the county should figure out ways to minimize the harm the mining would do to existing economic activity. Until this planning is complete, and mining applications are in compliance with reasonable guidelines to protect current industries, no mining should be allowed.
Conditional Uses Zoning Ordinance
These mining applications are not uses covered by the CUP permit for which they are applying.
The Buffalo County Zoning ordinance includes “Manufacturing and processing of natural mineral resources indigenous to Buffalo County incidental to the extraction of sand and gravel and the quarrying of limestone and other rock for aggregate purposes” in its list of uses for which a CUP may be applied for. Mining sand for use in oil or gas “fracking” is not “for aggregate purposes”.
Thus, these applications should be denied.