Pattison Sand Company cited for hundreds of violations - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Pattison Sand Company cited for hundreds of violations

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Questions still burn even after the fire at a Clayton County sand mine has been put out.

Pattison Sand Company issued a statement Tuesday morning, saying over the weekend it extinguished the underground mine fire and the air quality was never significantly impacted.

Experts the company hired say the fire was a "minimal event" and that "smoke particle readings collected in the community were below levels of public health concern."

Some people in the adjacent town of Clayton, however, remain concerned, and perhaps for good reason.

The US Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) has cited Pattison Sand with hundreds of violations in the last few years.

A search of data publicly available on MSHA's website shows Pattison Sand Company LLC has been cited with safety violations regarding everything from hard hats and protective wear to hazard training, maintenance of back-up alarms and more.

According to MSHA, Pattison Sand Company LLC began operating the sand mine in Nov. of 2005. Listed violations date back to 2007.

KWWL called MSHA and the US Department of Labor Tuesday morning and asked how Pattison's number of citations compares to other sand mines of its size. Spokesperson Jesse Lawder acknowledged the request but did not get back to KWWL with information in time for the early evening newscasts, as requested.

Pattison Sand Company issued a written statement early Tuesday morning and declined KWWL's request Tuesday afternoon to comment further on the matter.

In its statement, Pattison Sand said the underground mine fire was caused by sparks that ignited nearby plastic pipes.

That happened Thursday morning, but an official warning to area residents didn't come out until late Friday afternoon, which was from the Iowa DNR - not the company.

Pattison Sand Company held a meeting Monday evening with residents of Clayton at one of the company's offices.

One person who attended declined go on camera with KWWL, citing concerns of retaliation by the company, but said Pattison representatives told those in attendance the company did not notify the residents of Clayton about the fire because it did not think the problem was significant enough to do so.

The DNR's advisory told people in the area to avoid the smoke that was billowing out of the mine on Friday.

Iowa DNR environmental program supervisor Joe Sanfilippo said while the company is not required to inform the DNR about such fires, the DNR learned about the incident not from Pattison - but from media reports.

Sanfilippo said despite the company's comment in Tuesday's release that "Smoke particle readings collected in the community were below levels of public health concern," the DNR stands by the necessity of its Friday warning.

Sanfilippo said the air quality threat is now gone.

He said the DNR plans on meeting with the company next month to discuss how to handle notifying the community if a similar event were to happen ever again.

The Tuesday morning written statement from the Pattison Sand Company is here in its entirety, unedited:

Pattison Statement on Recent Mine Fire

Clayton, Iowa: Pattison Sand Company announced that the fire in the underground mine was extinguished over the weekend. Professional contract firms were were brought in to help manage fire suppression efforts and to assess air quality as well as other environmental concerns.

Environmental consultant, Dr. Alan Nye, Senior Toxicologist with CTEH of Little Rock, Arkansas assured local residents and employees, "Smoke particle readings collected in the community were below levels of public health concern." Dr. Nye was on-site by 5:00 am Saturday morning setting up air monitoring equipment near the mine and in the village of Clayton.

Chip Day, fire suppression consultant with USES company of Houston, Texas said the smoke was similar to diesel fuel smoke (as from trucks and locomotives) and called this situation a "minimal event." His firm assists with assessing fire extinguishing measures and clean-ups around the country.

The fire was caused by welding sparks. It migrated to nearby plastic piping. All safety protocol was followed. The Mining Safety & Health Administration, Iowa DNR, CTEH, and USES, as well as Pattison staff, including the Mine Rescue Team, were involved in the management of the fire, air quality, environmental concerns and the clean-up.

Company officials said they were happy to report that there were no injuries and production is expected to resume later this week.

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