OCTOBER 25, 2012 11:42AM

Deregulate the US? Visit a Wisconsin Mining District

Rate: 6 Flag

 (this PREVIEW was first published on WIvoices.org)

 New Auburn, WI has 7 silica frac sand mines within a 5 mile radius, so we decided to take Jim Laskin's advice and document the area.  We loaded up our camera gear and hit the road. The sand rush is transforming Wisconsin in many ways. With 87 operational mines and dozens more proposed, we wanted to experience what it felt like to live in one of those areas.

 It was a mostly clear, warm September day. Most of the drive was what one would expect in rural Wisconsin in early fall: corn fields tall and near harvest, green rolling hills, landscape littered with farm houses and silos, occasional deer grazing near the wooded edges, and birds of all kinds abundant.


Then we came around a rolling curve and the landscape abruptly changed. This was the first frac sand hill we discovered, so we stopped our car to film it. There was what can best be described as an invisible film in the air. I could feel it on my lips almost immediately. The substance was tasteless, yet I compulsively licked it off and spit it in the ditch every few minutes. Within 20 minutes any bare skin on my body felt dirty, yet I still couldn't see anything.


So I decided to run my hand across the hood of the car. There it was. This is the amount of dust collected on the hood of our car parked for 25 minutes, 1/4 mile away, from a silica frac sand mine near New Auburn, WI.


Frac sand processing facility near New Auburn, WI.

Roads busy with trucks carrying silica frac sand between mines and nearby processing facilities near New Auburn, WI.

This worker is attempting to keep the roads clean by sweeping the fine dust that builds up and covers every surface in the area. Our presence didn't go unnoticed. Contrary to the open-armed gesture, our cameras weren't exactly welcomed.

We decided to move on a bit too hastily and some equipment blew off the roof of the car! In this photo, the photographer is scrounging for lost equipment with frac sand trucks bumping by....  

As we drove through the area, we noticed a woman attempting to walk her two dogs on the side of the road with trucks rumbling by beside her. By chance we pulled up and asked her if she'd be willing to give us an interview about life inside a mining district. Lack of preparation was her only hesitation, but her strong feelings persuaded her to speak to us.


Brenda Tabor-Adams standing in her once-quiet, rural small farm, which has now turned into a bustling road with hundreds of trucks carrying sand passed her house daily. She worries about her 22-month-old son sleeping inside, growing up surrounded by mines. Brenda said that the dust I noticed earlier is a persistent problem that invades virtually every area of her family's life, from hanging clothes, taking her child outside, to opening her windows. She and her remaining neighbors feel "trapped" on their own property.

She offers a compelling first hand account of life inside a silica frac sand mining district, which we will publish in its entirety soon.


On our way home, we came over a hill on WI HWY 64 traveling west. This is quickly becoming a common sight in Wisconsin - a disappearing green hill, replaced by sand dunes.  

STAY TUNED for our next person behind the public policy interview. Tabor-Adams tells her full story about how it feels to live inside a busy silica frac sand mining district in west-central Wisconsin.  

 Please help fund this interview! We can only help people tell their stories with your generous support ~

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" The Fracking industry has spent 750 million dollars to lobby Congressional politicians, against regulating natural gas fracking associated with earthquakes.
The Koch Brothers long time opponents of the Environmental Protection Agency are fighting tooth and nail to stop the government from regulating natural gas hydraulic fracking for natural gas. The energy billionaires have hired an army of lobbyists, have bought up politicians through bribery and have cornered free reign on fracking gas in the North Eastern states." (www.politicolnews.com)

power, greed, corruption and ignorance is wreaking havoc with the Earth — our only true home.
Heidi, You are a treasure. Hands-on, hands dirty, road trip and all. And the larger point you make via the title, that every instance illustrates the principle writ large, that these individual consequences of our unregulated rush to cash in on some new way to degrade the environment for a quick buck speaks to our inability to make the point for society at large. There are consequences. That dust on your hands is in your neighbors' lungs.

I think of the same principle at work when I read about the injectable steroids made by New England Compounding Center as the cause of a devastating fungal meningitis outbreak. It's all a single principle.
Heartbreaking and infuriating. And this is under Obama's administration. Don't even wanna try to imagine what it would be like if the Robot got elected.
I come from a long line of Kentucky coal miners, some of whom fought -- and a few of whom died -- unionizing mines. Sad to say, many of their grandsons and granddaughters will be voting for Myth Romoney, the Koch Brothers' candidate. Like the rest of us, thye will be the canaries in the coal mine.
the reality of elective oligarchy is that a few hundred legislators are cheaply bought, by the standards of national and international commerce.

i have no sympathy for 'progressives' who complain about the consequences of politician-rule, but will not turn a finger to get democracy. you made your bed, now lie down and be screwed again. and again, and again...

talk about slow learners...
Chuck - great seeing you back! We are seeing a major push in WI for deregulation of every kind, the “Wisconsin niceness” doesn’t mesh well with corporations promising to be good neighbors. People actually believe them…that is changing slowly

Steve - "That dust on your hands is in your neighbors' lungs." Exactly - then she told us about her sleeping son inside the house. I can’t believe this is our country, honestly - mine now, ask questions later.

Matt - Our state feels like a country unto itself right now. It's like TX here - with a few politicians re-writing everything from environmental to education policy, and corporations threatening regular people with law suits if they are disruptive to the profit process.

Tom - As you know all too well w/ your family history, unfortunately, a person must be able to connect the dots between a candidate and his/her policies. Unfortunately, that is something most people aren't able to do without feeling the pain themselves.

al - " the reality of elective oligarchy is that a few hundred legislators are cheaply bought" - nail on the head.

Sadly, many don't seem to mind as long as the purchased leader implements policies agreeable to them....the glaring reality sets in when the will of the people is wholly absent b/c there isn't a monetary incentive to promote the agenda that actually empowers regular people and the land that they live on. For instance, silica frac sand mining is universally loathed, across party lines, in WI. It is bringing regular people together - but there isn't big money to fight against it and most politicians focus elsewhere. That's why we are telling these stories, only thing we can do ~
why is there never a nutty libertarian militia corps on hand when they are needed? or even the local hell's angels, surely their bikes are getting slimey?