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Concerned Citizens for St. Charles: No safe form of silica sand

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ST. CHARLES — A presentation concerning the dangers of silica sand was the latest salvo by the Concerned Citizens for St. Charles against a proposed frack sand processing and loading facility.

The St. Charles City Council on Tuesday night heard from Dr. Wayne Feyereisn, a doctor of internal medicine and member of the Mayo Medical School faculty, on the long-term health risks of the rail facility Minnesota Proppant hopes to build in St. Charles Township.

"There is not a safe form of silica," Feyereisn said. Fine spheres of the sand get caught in lungs, resulting in silicosis, he said.

Feyereisn quoted from several studies detailing the dangers of silica sand. He also expressed concern over acrylamide and diesel particulates. Winona County already ranks in the 80th percentile in diesel particulates in the nation according to the U.S. Clean Air Task Force, he said, and that would certainly rise with hundreds of thousands of gallons of diesel used in truck transportation of processed silica sand.

Travis Lange, who has presented more than 1,000 signatures on a petition asking the council to ban any business seeking to process, mine or transport silica sand in St. Charles, told the council that the petition contains a majority of residents compared to those who voted in the last election.

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"Let Minnesota Proppant know they are not welcome," Lange said. "You don't have to wait for a proposal. Put it on the agenda. It can be that simple."

Mayor Bill Spitzer, however, said that just because names appear on the petition doesn't mean all those individuals want a permanent ban on silica sand operations in the city.

"I would encourage each of the council members to call those people who signed the petition," Spitzer said. "A lot of the people I have talked to say they want more information. They signed the petition as a way to get more information."

One citizen looking for more information asked the crowd to trust in the process. "I believe in you as our elected officials," she said, "and I'm glad you're taking it slow. I, myself, am left with more questions than answers."

In other news from the meeting, the city council approved the use of the north parking lot at city hall for a farmers market that will be held from 3-7 p.m. on Thursdays starting on May 17 and extending through Oct. 31.

And finally the council approved the 2013 capital improvement expenditures as outlined in the budget. Councilman Dave Braun discussed a pair of items that had previously been approved and budgeted for, but ultimately was part of a unanimous vote for the plan. "Just because you budgeted for it doesn't mean you have to spend it," Braun said.

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