Weather Forecast


Study finds silica levels near Maiden Rock sand mine were extremely low

MAIDEN ROCK--Wisconsin Industrial Sand Company (WISC), a subsidiary of Fairmount Minerals, recently completed a study of crystalline silica concentrations in the ambient air in the Maiden Rock community.

The sampling program was created in accordance with well-established U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) sampling principles and procedures, and utilized proven crystalline silica analytical procedures from the National Institute of Occupational Health and Safety (NIOSH).

The data collected show the ambient PM4 crystalline silica levels near the WISC facility in Maiden Rock are extremely low and well within the range considered to be consistent with good air quality. The study found the WISC operation doesn’t contribute to PM4 crystalline silica in the ambient air, any more than other sources of PM4 in the area. The majority of the ambient PM4 crystalline silica in the community comes from many other sources, including farms, unpaved roads and construction.

Air Control Techniques, L.C., an experienced company specializing in air emission testing and industrial air pollution control equipment, and prominent expert John Richards, PhD, P.E., worked with WISC to design and evaluate the sampling program. Sampling took place at three locations in the community, in and around the WISC facility. At the conclusion of the comprehensive year-long study, Air Control Techniques produced a detailed, scientific-based report encompassing one of the largest sets of ambient PM4 crystalline silica concentration data ever compiled.

“We were confident that, by carefully controlling exposure of dust within our facilities at the occupational level, the community did not face any associated health risks,” said Fairmount Minerals Regional Underground Mine Manager Jeff Himes. “We are excited that this extensive study demonstrated that our operations do not have a negative impact on air quality. We will continue to manage our operations to minimize the impact to our employees and on the environment, and to strengthen our commitment to be a good neighbor within our communities.”

Silica is the name given to a group of minerals composed of silicon and oxygen, the two most abundant elements in the earth’s crust. Mostly found in the crystalline state, it makes up 12 percent of the earth’s crust and its use is abundant in society. Potential overexposures to crystalline silica can occur in mining. The prolonged, excessive exposure to respirable crystalline silica can cause a disease known as silicosis.

Silicosis is a preventable “occupational” disease that may develop after many years of overexposure in the workplace. Silicosis is not a concern for consumers or the public who receive only intermittent environmental exposures, such as at the beach, on farms or from unpaved roads.