By MARK EVANS
STE. GENEVIEVE HERALD
Attorney Steve Jeffery and several concerned citizens who live near the proposed silica sand mine met with the Ste. Genevieve County Commission for nearly two hours of the commission’s regular meeting last Thursday.
Jennifer Mueller, director of the county health department, and Bob Bach, president of the county health board, along with County Clerk Sue Wolk, also sat in on the meeting.
Jeffery previewed the Power Point presentation he would show at a public meeting in Weingarten on Saturday, although he did not do the actual presentation.
All of the visitors expressed grave concerns about health and property values if the sand mine is allowed to open.
Jeffery also spelled out some of the medical dangers of the microscopic sand particles that tend to become easily airborne and can wreak havoc on lungs.
Meanwhile, Jeffery debated Missouri Statute 192.300 with Presiding Commissioner Garry Nelson.
Nelson has long sited the closing sentence of the statute, which seems to negate earlier wording that grants county commission’s power to implement various mandates. The commission has been backed on this by Ivan Schraeder, its attorney.
Jeffery cited examples of court cases that he said refuted that interpretation. He said he had emailed them to Schraeder and would be happy to discuss it with him.
The commission has long relied on the advice of Schraeder, considered a leading attorney in the field of Missouri government.
Jeffery, who was chief counsel at the Missouri Department of Natural Resources under Governor John Ashcroft, gave some background on what silica sand is, a very fine-grain quartz-based sand. Up to 6,000 gallons of water per minute is often required to wash the sand, while chemicals called flocculants are added. He said the leftover mixture of undesired sand, flocculants and water are left untreated at the mine site.
He also spoke on how “fugitive dust” from these facilities can travel and how harmful it can be when it gets in the lungs. The dust has been known to travel up to half a mile from the edge of sand operation properties, he said.
He cited one instance in which seven of 17 homes had crystalline silica detected above an acceptable limit. Jeffery called this “a significant issue.”
He also noted that this is a windy part of the country and that children’s health is at greater health risk than adults. He also said there are no state or federal regulations regarding crystalline silica emissions.
Nelson gave all the attendees a chance to give their opinions. All expressed grave concerns, including water quality, the drying up of wells due to the huge water demand by the plant, the safety and health of children and grandchildren, plus threats to natural areas like the nearby Horton Conservation Area.
Bach, as health board chairman, called the situation “a potential health issue” and said it is something “we need to address.”
SCHMIEDER GIVES ROAD UPDATE
Scott Schmieder, road and bridge foreman, reported that his crews were getting some potholes patched before more rain hit. If rain did come, he said, he would switch them off to prepare Coffman Road for paving.
He said they may also do some duropatching and will be hauling chips into the shed for storage.