By MARK EVANS
STE. GENEVIEVE HERALD
Sides are forming on the issue of NextGen Chemicals Private Limited putting in a 249-acre silica sand mining operation on US Highway 32.
The discussion came up during last Thursday’s County Commission meeting. Presiding Commissioner Garry Nelson had both Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR) representative and a supporter of the project on speakerphone.
Bill Zeaman, an environmental supervisor for the DNR informed the commissioners that they had been receiving an unusually high number of comments and questions regarding the proposed silica mine.
A public meeting will be held – probably in May. It cannot be held before the DNR’s public comment period has ended. That will be April 28.
Zeaman said he had also reached out to the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. He said they would have representatives at the meeting.
“It’s more of a round-table discussion,” he said.
He said he was giving the commissioners “a heads-up that we’re receiving a lot of concerns” and that one of them had specifically requested the county commission be present at any public meetings on the issue.
All three commissioners said they definitely plan to attend.
“We want to do what’s right for the silica people and we want to do what’s right for the residents,” Nelson said.
“That’s the whole purpose of the public meeting,” Zeaman said.
Zeaman said it would essentially be NextGen’s meeting, with the DNR present “to answer any questions we possibly can.”
Becca Faulkner, represent, was on another line. She said they were trying to get their “ducks in a row” prior to the meeting, so they could answer questions.
“This is the time frame to register your concerns and we will try to respond to them,” Zeaman said. “We’re not going to hold the public meeting before the public meeting. We’re just going to mention that, hey, we recognize those concerns and those are great talking points that will be for discussion at the public meeting.”
Nelson stressed that the commission’s hands are tied.
“Ste. Genevieve County does not have Planning and Zoning he said. “People voted it down about 20 years ago. Therefore, we have no jurisdiction.”
Meanwhile, a group of county residents are gearing up to oppose the operation. In an article written by Jillian Ditch Anslow (ran as a paid ad in this issue), concerns about pollution, noise, traffic and a hindrance to agriculture and tourism.
The opponents plan to hold their own meeting on April 30, according to Leigh Ditch.