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Sand Mines

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"Fracking" for natural gas has quickly become an important way for the United States to extract natural gas more efficiently than with traditional methods. Drilling is suplemented by pumping water, chemicals, and sand into the hole at great pressures and fracturing the rocks. The water expands the cracks. The sand keeps the cracks open. The special chemicals (which are secret) presumably act like soap to lower the surface tension of water allowing it to enter very tiny cracks.

Fracking is extremely controversial. Part of the problem lies with the secret chemicals, which are believed to be harmful. These chemicals often find their way into ground water aquifers, preventing the ground water from being.

Fracking is also controversial because it is damaging rock deep within the ground in ways we cannot see or understand. The process has even been known to cause minor earthquakes. But the primary objections come from contamination of groundwater and large usage of water during the fracking process.

Sand, especially the type of sand found in Wisconsin, is needed for the fracking process. Wisconsin is experiencing a boom in sand mining as land owners discover they can make money from the sand below their properties. The mining business is growing faster than the regulations that protect everybody.

Other kinds of sand found in Wisconsin is used for foundry purposes. These mines are similar to frack-sand mines, even though the sand will be used for different purposes.

Residents near sand mines are concerned about their water resources, noise, road damage, property values, and silica dust.

One of our members, Kelly Ramstack, learned in late July (2012) that a foundry sand mine might be built close to her property in Manawa. It would also be across the street from a State Natural Area and near the Little Wolf River. She has been investigating what can be done to protect her corner of the world.

Map for the sand mine near Kelly's home.

Kelly's Letter to the Editor Appleton Post-Crescent 08/26/12.

Petition against the mine "Say no to town of Union frack sand mining"

Waupaca County sand mine worries town residents Appleton Post-Crescent 08/04/12.

Notes from Kelly Ramstack (08/30/12):

As you all know, a silica sand mine is proposed in Waupaca County just a few miles from our house. A group of concerned citizens have formed an alliance of sorts to try to stop or at least get some restrictions in place regarding sand mines. Our biggest worry is that once one mine comes in, many more will follow. We don't want to turn into another Chippewa County. The town board asked the town planning commission to discuss whether a mine would be a good fit for our township. The planning commission had a meeting on August 20th and 27th and will have another meeting on September 5th. They are in the process of setting up some conditions for this mine permit but the planning commission seems to know very little when it comes to sand mining. It's actually embarrassing how little they know. And these are the people that are supposed to be helping to guide our township in the right direction. Instead of researching the matter, at the meetings they are asking the mining company if certain restrictions (hours of operation, blasting, transportation) would be okay with them. The mining company is calling all the shots because the town is letting them.

On Tuesday, September 4th the Town of Union board is having another meeting and they will be discussing a moratorium per our request. We don't have a lot of hope that the town will adopt a moratorium to figure some things out regarding sand mining but we have to try. If we can't get one at the town level, we'll try again at the county level. A moratorium would give everyone more time to figure out the impacts of this mine.

Email for Kelly Ramstack:

Another meeting was held September 18 at 7:00 in the Union Town Hall. About 80 people were there. All who spoke were against the mine.

Directions to the Union Town Hall

Sierra Club press release 09/18/12

Note from Kelly Ramstack (September 25)

I just did a phone interview with Kate Prengaman from the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism. They said they got my name through Sierra Club (perhaps from the press release?) I talked about the mine being next to Tellock's Hill state natural area, how they would remove a hill and forever alter the view of our landscape, how wetlands that connect to the Little Wolf River are downhill from the mine site, the silica sand dust and the nearby homes, how heavy truck traffic may affect local businesses - cafes, b&b, retirement community, daycare, campground, etc. I also talked about the strong opposition to the mine - how only 1 person has spoke in favor of the mine in all of our meetings. How we have formed a group opposed to the mine that includes citizens from all over the county. And I spoke in depth about how 2 members of our town board had to recuse themselves and how 1 member doesn't listen to the citizens and caters to the mining company. (I really hope they write something about that!) Oh yeah, and I spoke about how our comprehensive plan speaks of keeping our area rural and not destroying farmland.

The nonprofit Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism ( collaborates with Wisconsin Public Radio, Wisconsin Public Television, other news media and the UW-Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

Here are several good articles on frack sand from

Newsletter article by Kelly Ramstack, October 2012

Post Card for November 1 meeting at Waupaca County Courthouse
Map showing the location of the Waupaca County Courthouse

Short TV-11 report of the November 1 meeting.

Six hour video of the November 1 meeting.

Comments from the November 1 meeting at the Waupaca County Courthouse by Kelly Ramstack.

Note from Kelly Ramstack about the 03/18/13 meeting

At my count, 67 people braved the weather for the public hearing regarding the changes to Union's Comp. plan. 19 people spoke out against the changes. Zero spoke in favor of them. ZERO! Waupaca County Zoning administrator Ryan Brown and Planning and Zoning Chair Jack Penney were in attendance. I can only hope that it's starting to sink in that the people do not want this mine. We are celebrating this small victory. The town board has not yet voted on whether they will adapt these changes but, after last night's hearing, for them to approve them would be outrageous. We'll keep the pressure on!

Sand mine concerns addressed at hearing (03/18/13) Waupaca County Post article published 03/21/13.

Save the Hills Alliance website

Wisc DNR Document, Silica Sand Mining in Wisconsin, January 2012

Sierra Magazine, Fractured Lives, July 2012

A plea for help from Kelly Ramstack (03/10/14)

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