NOVEMBER 20, 2012 11:35PM

Family Called "Collateral Damage" in Sand Mining District

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(first published on

Small business owner, Brenda Tabor-Adams, lives with her husband and 2-year-old son in a silica frac sand mining district between New Auburn and Chetek, WI. They are surrounded by mines. Two separate facilities are within a third of a mile and three more are within one mile of her once-quiet, rural property. In addition, several more mines are proposed or already operating nearby. Brenda's clients now compete with 1,000 sand trucks per day, or 20 trucks every 15 minutes, in order to get their horse trailers in and out of her property. With trucks running for 12 hours/day, 6 days/week, her life has been turned upside down. Dismissed as “collateral damage” by local officials, she fears for the environmental impact, the health of her family and neighbors and the sustainability of her small business. Tabor-Adams also details troubling issues that regular people face when dealing with multimillion dollar mining companies, including lawyers threatening lawsuits, town and county boards "stacked" with pro-sand officials, and the understaffing and underfunding of the Department of Natural Resources tasked to protect the land and the people. Brenda says, "Our government has failed us miserably..."

Here’s her story.  


Video Highlights from Tabor-Adams:

“I’m stuck here in this house and they won’t… [choking up with tears, hand over mouth]…they won’t help us out.”

“It’s been a long road. We’re not only worried about the silica in the air, but they can discharge their waste water supposedly…we're worried whether we'll have enough's just been icky."

“I have a 22-month-old son...and I do fear...why would OSHA say this (silica dust) is a carcinogen? know maybe a little exposure is fine but in a 22-month-old kid, what is too much?”

Is it ok if we film your property?

[Laughing and looking around] "With the weeds and everything? But I’ve just thought, why even bother – you know? Why even bother maintaining my yard because everything is covered in dust. It’s dirty, it’s icky, you don’t even want to come home….we put an addition on this house 2 years ago, so we could sit and enjoy the quiet, look at our animals and just enjoy our space. And now? We can’t even use our deck! It is loud, it stinks, it is covered in dirt… it’s not what I signed up for."


"I no longer hang my clothes up….they are covered in dirt. There is no reason to. The trucks are going from 6:00 in the morning to 6:00 at night Monday through Saturday. And then there is still mining activity going on until 8:00 at night, sometimes even going longer. And then you can hear the plant that goes 24-7 all the time.

 Actually, I have a neighbor who lives right on the Makenzie Marsh, and her entire property is vibrating. When she lies in bed she just feels her house shaking.

[Tearing and trembling] I’m sorry I got so emotional, but I can’t help it. The screens are caked in dirt, so what is going into my lungs? You can’t keep it clean inside the house. It’s just covered in dirt. It’s on your skin all of the time. ...not only do I have to deal with truck traffic, the 24-hour-a-day mining activity and dirt, but now my water faucet spits a little air. Drywall screws are punching through the ceiling in my kitchen and bathroom from the trucks hitting the bumps on the road and shaking my house all day."  

 Have you thought about moving at all?

  "We’ve thought about moving. It’s just…who’s going to buy this? Who’s going to buy this? [Motioning around] We’d have to take quite a loss if we were going to move…you know, you don’t just write out a check and go buy another house. The mining companies are fighting the property guarantee, which the companies would have to pay the land owners if they sold for a loss.

The mining reps say that my property will only increase in value. They say that people will eventually want to come to live here because of the reclamation. But, I think they’ll leave the land when it is done. The amount of money they’ve proposed to reclaim the area is $1,500/acre. You know, you can’t even start-up a bobcat for that amount."


"A friend of mine works for a rock quarry mining company, and she said that frac sand mining is no kind of mining that she knows at all. The quarry takes care of the people around their area. If people are unhappy, they buy their property. So, when I first heard of sand mining I thought - big deal?...because that was my frame of reference."

 Then I actually had a really good friend not say anything to me when she sold her property...and I had a nephew who didn’t say anything to me, either.

Then, another one of my friends down the road got manipulated into selling their property to the mining companies, because they told her, ‘you don’t want to live next to a sand mine, it is really, really bad, you need to get out.’ ...Then, they pretty much took their property... But they actually did want her land, because they built their tracks there...But she refused to sign the gag order. Then she actually spearheaded the little group in the neighborhood, The Concerned Dovre Residents, and tried to convince the town board that we needed an ordinance."  


Video Highlights from Tabor-Adams:

"At town board meetings we've had sand company lawyers threaten to sue us if we pass ordinances to try to protect the residents...they have also threatened to have Governor Walker step in if we pass an ordinance that they don't agree with"

"The county board doesn't want to hear it, they're all for jobs. They don't care what happens to us. We're actually called 'collateral damage'...they figure it is ok for us to 'take one for the team' in the name of jobs..."

"the town board hired an attorney from a pro-sand mine firm to help us...he says the DNR is doing a good enough job..."

"the deregulation of the DNR doesn't allow me much protection anymore, its turned into a customer service agency turning out as many permits as they can..."

" I was actually a very strict Republican up until last year...but now as it is hitting me on a personal level, and I'm not anymore."

Do you know anyone who works at the mines in the area?

"Yes, my nephew who used to own the place where the wet plant is and also my brother-in-law got in there and I have a client who has a son who works here. They are hiring, not a lot, but they are."

What about neighbors who were able to sell their property?

 "It depends on how it was done. Some just sold their property and moved away. Then, some sold their property and went to the town board, and they didn’t care about what they did to their neighbors…it was their money and they don’t want any regulation at all.

They may have had good friends or even family members…and then to have them just turn their back on you because of jobs or money? They don’t care what happens to you and your family... Call it what it is - it would’ve been much better to me. Instead of throwing me under the bus, just come right out and say, ‘I want my money.’

We’ve [The Concerned Dovre Residents Group] personally hired Glen Stoddard as an attorney and he’s been trying to help us out. Our goals are to try to protect our air, protect our water, protect our property values, save us from the truck traffic…make sure that we are not just run into the ground.

 The town board just doesn’t want to hear anything about it. There are more people in our Concerned Dovre Residents group ready to talk to you. Our whole story is so unbelievable that we are afraid no one would believe it even if it were a made-for -TV movie.

We've had violations of open meeting laws, a town attorney with a conflict of interest, a stacked county board that doesn’t want to collect information from any professionals, including the Wisconsin Town’s Association, our attorney, or even Jim Drost who is a Mining & Environmental Engineer. And we can’t seem to get anyone with power to notice!

Even on the other side of the county – they’re like, “we don’t care.” It’s not happening in their back yard. But a lot of people are born and raised in this area and have no idea what big money, big oil, big corporations can do. They have no clue."


If somebody did approach you and asked to buy you out, at a fair price, would you consider doing that?

 "I would. Um, actually, the entire group of us that has been standing up and trying to get us all protected, have all said that if anybody has a chance to get out – we’re all for it. If it means the rest of us have to stay here….just anybody getting out would be good.

But they don’t have to buy us. Why should they? It is an extra $100,000 that they can pay their CEOs…I don’t know.

If I had one wish, honestly, I’d just like to leave. If I can’t….if it isn’t going to stop, I just want to leave. I didn’t sign up for this. I didn’t buy this little chunk of acreage out in the country in a quiet little township to turn it into an industrial park….I could’ve lived anywhere. I wouldn’t have picked an industrial park."



The lawmakers in the state of Wisconsin have indicated that loosening mining regulations is a priority for the next legislative session. This has many people worried, especially given the understaffing and underfunding of the DNR coupled with county regulators being hired away by the sand companies they formerly regulated. With a total of more than 100 frac sand mines or processing facilities currently operating or proposed in the state, more and more families likely will find themselves expected to “take one for the team” as “collateral damage” in Wisconsin’s sand rush.    

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Oh my GOSH. Can you imagine the ecological destruction? This can't be good.
I understand the personal issues, but isn't ANYONE coming in and saying this is stripping our planet?

In Texas, Houston, they have tapped the natural underwater sources so savagly that the city has obvious fault lines and we have had a couple of earthquakes! INSANE.
Our politicians have been talking about alternative energy for decades. Solar energy, and windmills have been making some in roads, but I have to wonder if these technologies will ever come to full fruition. Perhaps that is why the mining companies have adopted such cavalier attitudes. They view alternative energy as quixotic dreams while their companies supply fuel and profit from it. I don't know if they even see the people who live near their mines. The link (below) is a clip from Robert Redford. I believe it is pertinent to this issue.
" I was actually a very strict Republican up until last year...but now as it is hitting me on a personal level, and I'm not anymore."

Miserable as it sounds, and I do feel sympathy for these people and and horror at the wonton destruction of both the environment and peoples' lives, this is the part that I can't get past. It sounds to me like it's all good as long as it hurts other people.
getting democracy may be hard, but if you don't do it, the corporations are going to eat the world.
Thank-you all for paying attention to WI issues - they are really national issues.

Dianne - insane...seriously? I've never heard of such a thing...

Ranger - thanks for the link, and you are right. People like Brenda are seen as sub-human. She says people mock and throw trash in her yard now b/c she dares speak out ~

nerd cred - you are right. It has happens all the time. Most people only care when directly affected. That's why Brenda is so amazing that Brenda actually admitted that...makes her even more human.

al - absolutely. It is no longer about a 2 party system or fight. It is about corporations ruling the world. People like Brenda say - not so fast. But it also takes people to actually care - that's a feat.
*Rubs her hands together* Get ready for a LOT of information in a short amount of time Heidi...

Silica, when inhaled, causes an illness called Silicosis. Information regarding silicosis can be found here: It can also cause a long list of other respiratory problems and can make heart problems worse because the circulatory system does not compensate well for the presence of silica in the body.

You can find the ATSDR (agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry) information on occupational exposure to crystalline silica here: Tell her I said to pay attention to the biological effects of silica and to the environmental data related to silica. Both are available on that page.

Additionally, I'm certain they are out of compliance for PM25 and most likely for PM10 and they could very well be out of compliance for PM5 as well (PM refers to Particulate Matter - the numbers refer to the size of the particles in microns). These things are enforced through the EPA as opposed to either through OSHA or local agencies (CFR-Part 763).

I know the local Chippewa Tribes there in WI are fighting the mining as well so she may want to contact them through their website (I'll give you the URL here in a sec). Understand that silica is a known carcinogen "Particles smaller than 10 microns are called PM10, and these are small enough to breathe into our lungs. Any particles of silica dust that are smaller than PM10 will be “breathable”, or “respirable”. PM10 pollution in general can cause disease and increase risks to health. However, there are special health concerns with silica dust smaller than PM10. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has determined that Respirable Crystalline Silica is a Carcinogen, or cancer causing substance. Prolonged or repeated exposure to fine airborne crystalline silica dust may cause severe scarring of the lungs, a disease called silicosis. Silicosis can develop quickly or over many years, depending upon the amount of silica a person breathes and for how long." You can find that information for her here: (That is also the URL to the Concerned Chippewa Citizens group trying to stop the mining)

Hope this helps... and feel free to give her my email address... I'm up to a trip to WI for a professional consult. *Grins Evilly*