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Mason County News
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Deep Pockets vs. Deep Roots
Wednesday, September 28, 2011 • Posted September 28, 2011

As many of you have been reading over the past weeks and months, the spread of sand mining and processing is on the rise and will continue to spread unless the people of Mason County educate themselves on the pros and cons of this industry on our community. These are a few of the things to consider as you form your opinion on whether this industry is good or bad for the people of Mason County.Pros:Brings jobs to the community.Brings tax revenue to the community.In some instances they bring donations and monetary support for local activities and fund raisers.Cons:Long –term health concerns created by the airborne crystalline silica (PM2.5) which the facility is not required to monitor, primarily because the lack of accurate equipment in monitoring this invisible dust. Crystalline Silica is a known cause of silicosis and lung cancer.This type of mining and processing is virtually unregulated by the state and federal government. There are only two permits required to open a facility of this type – air permit and water permit, while other mining operations such as coal and copper require anywhere from 20 to 82 different permits.The processing of the sand is a process that requires an abundance of water. The plants in our area are permitted to use anywhere from 400 acre/ft per year (130,400,000 gallons per year) to 3,000 acre/ft per year (977,553,000). Many rebut this saying that the peanut farmers used to pump as much water as these plants do, however, don’t forget farming is seasonal and this process uses water 365 days a year. These plants continue to be permitted for these enormous amounts of water usage, while at the same time the City of Mason is on water restriction.The sand that is being sought out is deposited in great quantities from Valley Spring across the county to Erna. With the rapid emergence of new plants and plants in the permitting or planning stage, what will be the cumulative effects of these facilities on our quality of health, quality of air and quality of water? These are unknown and why should the people of Mason and McCulloch Counties be the “LAB Rats” for the frac sand mining industry. The TCEQ and the Hickory Underground Water Conservation District seem to have the attitude it is easier to ask for forgiveness than it is permission when it comes to protecting the citizens it was created to protect. They offer to create baseline accounts of air quality, water quality and water quantity and then say lets monitor each of these things and in time we will monitor the effects.The size of the mining operation dictates the number of trucks going in and out of the facility, but it can be determined that approximately 100 loaded trucks leave the average size facility each day. This does not include the trucks returning for the next day’s load. Consider the wear and tear on our state and county roads and then consider who is responsible for paying to fix those roads – the taxpayer. Many of these trucks have been spotted driving on such county roads as Black Jack, Old Katemcy, and Old Mason Road. We only have one DPS officer to monitor all of the trucks passing through Mason County. If we were able to have another officer assigned to our area, consider who pays for that.Plant owners assure neighbors in the surrounding area that they will be good neighbor. What is your definition of good neighbor? A neighbor that keeps their security lights on all night long shining in your window, one that has a hundred friends coming and going from their house all day long, one that plays loud music all the time, one that sets off dynamite charges once a week. I guess being a good neighbor is all relative to which side of the fence you're on.These plant sites are stripped of most living plants and animals as the plant is built and the pits are dug. Each facility is required to have a reclamation plan for the land after the mining ceases, however, to avoid doing this the owner maintains one employee on site after production is completed in order to keep from having to fill these huge holes. Obviously it is cheaper to pay one person than it is to do what they are supposed to do.

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