Winona is First in MN to Test Silica Sand Health Impact

Created: 01/16/2014 6:28 PM
By: Steph Crock

(ABC 6 News) -- The silica sand issue has exploded in our region, many concerned about health issues that may come along with it. Now, the city of Winona is the only place in the state to install a monitoring device to track air quality along a silica sand trucking route.
It's been a hot issue in southeastern Minnesota, and the city of Winona started really digging into frac sand mining concerns over the past year. "The city in 2013 went through moratorium process and put together some rules and regulations into city code having to do with silica sand. One of the lingering issues after the moratorium, or why there were still some questions, had to do with air quality," said Assistant City Planner Carlos Espinosa.
The city reached out to the state looking for answers. "A list of questions was sent to the MPCA asking about air quality and in their response they proposed this monitoring problem,"  said Espinosa.
"This is something that we don't have the local expertise nor do we have the funds to provide the type of monitoring that people were suggesting we do," said Winona Mayor Mark Peterson. The state stepped up to the plate, funding this monitoring device that's been installed on top of the YMCA in Winona, just across from the Winona Bridge. A highly traveled silica sand trucking route.
"The MPCA is monitoring silica sand facilities in other areas of the state but this is the only truck route location," said Espinosa.
It'll collect air quality measurements for the entire 2014 year. Hopefully, giving city leaders and community members the answers they're looking for. "We'll have some baseline information which we think is important for moving forward and we'll find out if we have a problem or not," said Peterson.
The findings will be compared to other readings from monitors across the state. One's that aren't along a major silica sand trucking route.