Q 2 (Cherie Glass). The <2mm size angular crystalline silica produced as waste by this type of sand plant can be carried on the wind over 20 miles. It is called angular crystalline silica because (even though you cannot see it – it has a smaller diameter than the finest human hair) it has sharp, jagged edges – like broken glass. These fine, microscopic particles are considered respirable (breathable) and can imbed themselves in the lungs, basically ripping the lungs to shreds, causing silicosis (an incurable disease) or cancer. Almost 25% of Mason County is over 75 years old, and is a high risk group for this type of respiratory invasion. Will you be paying their medical bills or will you be expecting the government to take care of them? (Our tax dollars). What are you going to do to protect the health of the people of Mason County?
A 2. Some silica dust has been present in Mason County since people began farming years ago. Peanut farmers often generated large, silica-laden dust clouds during harvest. Nobody monitored that dust or did anything to protect local citizens from it. Today, however, air emissions from businesses like the proposed Proppant Specialists sand mine and processing facility are regulated by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). Proppant has best practice processes and procedures in place to maintain silica dust well within compliance with all health and environmental regulations. Any dust generated during the sand drying process is gathered and filtered by sophisticated dust collection systems. The equipment is generally rated at 99 percent capable of removing all dust particles from the air. Air regulations in Texas require that operators must demonstrate that the equipment is capable of performing at this level. Operators are required, through testing, to measure the unit’s efficiency. Emissions allowed at the property line are extremely limited. Dust from roadways and stockpiles will be controlled by watering down the areas.
Q 2.5 Your air quality permit states that you assume the small particles will be removed in washing. Where do these particles go when they are washed out? How are they kept from being returned to the air when they dry out? How do you propose to prevent them from drying out when you cease operations?
A 2.5 The particles are washed from the sand in the very beginning of the wash process and are rejected with the clay. Any particles finer than 200 mesh, or 69 microns, are deposited with the larger particles of fine sand and clay in a waste pile. The sand and clay particles are deposited in piles or pits for reclamation. We keep the piles moist, which will not allow the particles to become airborne. As the fine sand and clay pile is built, the wet nature of the sand eliminates concern of wind erosion. Topsoil and clay will be placed on the area to encourage re-vegetation, eliminating wind-blown dust. The project’s reclamation plan for the entire mine site will include covering all areas with clay and topsoil upon completion of mining to prevent dust issues.
Q 2.75. What is the expected composition of the ‘waste’ material that is supposed to be used to return the land to its original state when you are done mining? How will it be stored to prevent contamination of air and ground water?
A 2.75. More than 99 percent of all waste will be simply sand and clay originally extracted from the mine. The remaining fraction will be biodegradable settling agents that allow water to be clarified, commonly referred to as flocculants. Past mining in nearby McCulloch County can be used as an example. Sand mining has been going on there since 1957, and no groundwater contamination has been documented to date. And, as discussed in the question above, the project’s reclamation plan for the entire mine site will include filling in the mined areas with the previously stockpiled material, then covering all areas with clay and topsoil upon completion of mining to prevent dust issues.
Q 3. Hunting is a major contributor to income in Mason County. What are the effects of angular crystalline silica on the health of wild life and livestock? If you don’t know, wouldn’t it be wise of you to determine that before your industry destroys a major contributor to income in Mason County?
A 3. Wildlife and livestock are protected by industry compliance with state permitting requirements, just as humans are protected. In the 50-plus years mining has been conducted in the McCulloch County area, sand plant sites have become refuges for wildlife. It is common to see deer grazing at our facilities in Voca, Texas, and in Wisconsin. We actually have to “shoo” turkeys from the buildings in Wisconsin at times. In McCulloch County, cattle graze on our land that we lease to local farmers – right along the entrance to the sand plant. In our experience, wildlife and livestock suffer no ill impact.
Q 4. At least 100 industrial sand trucks per day are projected to be coming and going from your sand mining operation. Last week a sand truck headed to Brady from Mason passed a line of four vehicles in a NO PASSING ZONE without regard for the safety of the occupants of the vehicles it was passing. A Mason County law enforcement officer chased the truck down – lights and sirens – and ticketed him. What will your company do to cover the cost of the additional law enforcement that will be required to keep the residents of Mason County safe?
A 4. Sand trucks owned and operated by Proppant’s parent company, FTS International, and its affiliate companies, use the latest technology, including GPS tracking, to automatically alert us to any unsafe driving. The company runs motor vehicle record checks of driving records for our commercial drivers twice a year to ensure we are only employing compliant, safe drivers. In addition, we routinely reward safe driving to further encourage our employees to operate safely.Our company is also committed to only using third-party trucking companies that put a priority on safe operations. We expect the highest level of employee accountability and zero tolerance for unsafe/unprofessional operations. We can and we have banned trucking companies from hauling sand from our facilities if their drivers disregard laws or regulations. This creates a serious financial incentive for drivers to obey the law.Owners of trucks operating in Texas pay a variety of taxes and fees to government entities, including road use taxes administered by the state. In fact, the trucking industry paid $17.8 billion in federal highway-user taxes and $19.6 billion in state highway-user taxes in 2006, according to the American Trucking Associations. Texas motor carrier registration fees are deposited to the Texas General Fund. Trucks also pay diesel fuel taxes. The federal fuel tax for diesel is 24.4 cents per gallon; the Texas state tax for diesel fuel is 20 cents per gallon. In addition, Proppant will pay property taxes to Mason County.
Q 5. What effect do you expect your sand mining operation to have on the property values to the land adjacent to you, to property a mile away, 5 miles, and 10 miles (that would be the city limits of Mason)?
A 5. We do not anticipate property values declining. In some cases, property values could actually increase. For example, a property predominately valued as a wildlife resource might increase in value since no hunting would be occurring on the adjacent Proppant land. This might make wildlife more available for hunting on the adjacent owner’s land. Of course, speculators could push up the price of land in the area because of the presence of potential sand reserves. In any case, our operations should not even be noticed by most property owners.The Proppant operation might also increase the occupancy rate of rental properties and spur home sales in Mason County, as our employees look for housing and the local economy is stimulated by new jobs and new business.
Q 6. What effect will the sand mining operation will have on tourism? Will “The Gem of the Hill country” become “The Pits?”
A 6. We believe that the new money being added to Mason County’s economy will generate more visitors and tourism. People coming here to do business will be exposed to what the area has to offer and will perhaps plan to return for shopping and hunting, and will stay in local hotels and eat in local restaurants. The county and school district will also begin to receive additional tax money that can be used to help improve the community, which can draw new visitors. In addition, new businesses can help support local tourist attractions, such as the Odeon Theatre or hunting leases. Proppant, through its parent company FTS International, recently donated $5,000 to help purchase a new screen for the Odeon. We also sponsored the Annual Wild Game Dinner this fall. In addition, our property only covers a tiny portion of Mason County – there will be plenty of land left for tourism. Mason County covers 932 square miles; our 670 acres covers 1.05 square miles, or approx one-tenth of one percent of the county (.113 percent).
Q 7. Have you considered any of these things before bringing in your lawyers and making your demands? You want to change everything about our way of life in Mason County, right down to the beautiful landscape we are known for worldwide. For what? - mediocre paying , high-risk jobs.
A 7. Mason County has a rich history, “where beautiful old buildings around a charming town square now play host to tourists who have made Mason a destination,” according to the Mason County Chamber of Commerce website. I totally agree with this description and would not want to do anything to negatively impact the quality of life in this wonderful community. That is why our company is willing to go the extra mile in our planned new business in Mason County. We are willing to accept restrictions on our water wells that have never before been placed on these types of wells in this area. We will have a formal reclamation plan for the mine – even though it is not required by law. We want to be good neighbors and support the community where our employees live and work.
Q 8. Do you care? The citizens that attended the meeting of the H.U.W.C.D. brought good, relevant material evidence to the meeting. Largely based on your corporate attorney’s objections – it (and they) were dismissed without consideration. Please THINK before you go forward with this plan. Sincerely, Cheri Glass
A 8. We certainly do care about Mason County and its citizens. We want to work in harmony with the community and address as many concerns as possible. That is why we held a community open house for citizens back in October. That’s why I am working with Gerry Gamel and the Mason County News to offer this forum for questions in the newspaper. We want to be a long-term business partner for Mason County and its citizens.