Iowa's Sand Battle: Digging into the controversy - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Iowa's Sand Battle: Digging into the controversy

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(KWWL) -

A fight is taking place in Clayton County right now.  It's a fight over the future of Iowa's only frac sand mining company, Pattison Sand Company.
Pattison mines St. Peter Sandstone, a type of sand that lies under a big portion of the United States, and is used in hydraulic fracturing operations, or fracking.

What is fracking?  Check out this 2 minute video from National Geographic

So what's the fight?  Pattison is looking to rezone 746 acres of land in Clayton County from agricultural to heavy industrial.  That will give them, they say, the property and sand reserves to stay in business for anywhere from 5 to 45 years down the road.  They say they're the largest employer in Clayton County, and have brought tens of millions of dollars into the county. Here's a link to a video they produced about their operations.

But a number of area neighbors are concerned about the potential effects of this expansion request.  Their concerns include worries about ground water contamination and air quality, because of how fine the sand is that is being mined. Here's a study done by the EPA about potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water. 

They are also worried about the changes made to the landscape.  It's easy to see from the Mississippi River the effect they've had on some of the bluffs--big sections carved out of the bluffs, replaced with sand piles and mine entrances.

There are also concerns that while Pattison is only requesting the rezoning so they can mine, it would technically leave the land vulnerable to development on top of the land if an owner sells down the road.  

So what's being done?  Clayton County has recently put together a five person committee to look at the concerns raised by neighbors, pulling largely from studies that have already been conducted in similar situations.  

Pattison has also hired consultants to examine air, water and view issues.
Clayton County Heath and Zoning Administrator Janet Ott believes the committee will be able to make a recommendation to the Board of Supervisors by May.

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