A report issued by the Boston Action Research Environmental Working Group of the Civil Society Institute and the Midwest Environmental Advocates on September 25, 2014, suggests that the extraction of fine grain sand for use in hydraulic fracturing may pose a threat to human health.
The process, known as “frac sand mining,” refers to the mining or removal of sand from areas where it is found in abundant quantities. The mining is done in open pits. According to the environmental groups and fracking opponents, the extraction of large quantities of the fine grain sand damages and depletes soils needed for agriculture, contaminates surface and groundwater, and exposes communities to airborne particulate matter. Once mined, the sand is then shipped to fields and well sites to be used in the hydraulic fracturing process. After being used in the fracked wells, the sand is removed and sold, or sometimes returned to the original mine sites to be reclaimed.
According to the report, the increase in frac sand mining calls for new water and air regulations to be imposed to prevent harm to human health. In places like Wisconsin, which holds approximately 75% of the frac sand market for the United States, the mining has increased significantly with the boom in hydraulic fracturing. The frac sand mining industry is concentrated in Wisconsin and Minnesota, where supply is plentiful, but demand from the oil and gas industry has caused an increased in frac sand mining in New York, Massachusetts, and other states. In some communities, opponents have sought moratoriums on the practice.
The environmental groups’ report argues that danger to human health exists because the sanding mining practice largely unregulated. Studies have not been done on the cumulative effects of exposure to the fine grain sand. Opponents of the practice also point to the known dangers of inhaling silica sand, which has been linked to cancer.
The report can be found at www.thewheelerreport.com. For more information, contact Toni Ellington at (504) 599-8500.