Public Lab Research note

Notes from Tuesday’s frac sand call

by stevie , Bronwen , dswenson , liz , Pat , read_holman , warren , Wicca | September 14, 2018 20:54 14 Sep 20:54 | #17117 | #17117

On Tuesday, September 11th, we held an open call in follow up to previous discussions regarding next step ideas on the frac sand issue.

Over this call, we added new ideas to those we had previously discussed, and we took a deeper look into some of the opportunities and challenges around one of the ideas previously shared and widely supported on compiling materials for individuals to use in reporting complaints and in a workshop structure to engage people on those materials. Below are notes from that call.

Who was there: Forest Jehnke, Pat Popple (@pat), Dwight Swenson (@dswenson), Cheryl Miller, Heather Andersen (@Wicca), Read Holman (@read_holman), Stevie Lewis (@Stevie), Bronwen Densmore (@bronwen) , Jeff Warren (@warren), and Liz Barry (@liz) (notes below are annotated by participants’ initials)

New ideas to add in brainstorm:

Method 9 monitoring for opacity interest in this method in relation to advocacy response. (FJ)

  • Opportunities: Can report to EPA directly (FJ)
  • Challenges: $250 per session to be trained and you have to re-train every 6 months. (CM and PP)

Well testing

  • Opportunities:

    • Pre-mining well testing has been done locally with Dr. Pierce (CM)
    • Crawford county Stewardship Project is working on having a place for people to submit well data (FJ)
  • Challenges: This data is not currently collected and can’t be FOIAed because it relates to privacy and protection (FJ)

Working on FOIAs (requesting info from the state under the Freedom of Information Act)

  • Opportunities: It’s something we've used very successfully even with DNR being as unresponsive as they usually are. If you request these documents within two weeks they are legally obligated to provide information. Over last couple years they've been better with more timely responses. I highly recommend these. (FJ)

Compiling materials for individuals to use in reporting complaints

This idea was brought up during individual calls and received wide support. Notes in this section are were we explored some of the nuances of this project.

Scope of reporting materials


  • It would take a lot of time to cover all areas, there are about 22 counties that have frac sand mining (PP)
  • Townships also have different regulations/enforcement (HA)


Question: would it make more sense to go deep in one area as a pilot (reporting + regulation mapping), or go lightweight but broad across several jurisdictions? (SL)

  • Support for focus on one narrow area (CM, PP, FJ, DS)
    • Idea: Chippewa or Trempealeau County as a start (CM)
    • Idea: Barron and Jackson County might also be good places (PP)


  • $1,500 from Save the Hills is available to start a program like this (Sand Sentinel program awarded to Pat) (CM)
  • Pat had a student working with me for 30 hours and she developed some formats (PP)

Other notes:

  • Other groups to include MSHA and OSHA (DS), Country Health Dept (PP), Emergency Services Fire and Rescue (DS).
  • EPA has become less and less responsive. I like the pilot training program. I think you will need subcommittees for people interested in air, water, traffic issues and put together some type of standard for these issues. (DS)
  • If we are reporting violations for example, Dunn County has issued Conditional Use Permits. In the other counties, the only conditions they have is the number of trucks. Town of Red Cedar has more strict regulations. Unzoned towns might have licensing ordinances, or other variation. There are many layers to understanding enforcement and regulations. Specific things are reported to the State, but different Counties or Towns may also have regulations. (CM)
  • If you're lucky, your township has an ordinance with some standards. Many do not. (FJ)

Hosting and collecting the information


  • It would require central location for collecting, holding and sharing reporting info (PP)
  • Many kinds of reporting information or requesting information go into a black hole. Problem is that people can't see that you place the request.(JW)


  • Public Lab can help to host or find a place to host reports online.(SL)
  • Might be a good idea to collect carbon copies of reports (PP)

Next Steps:

Perhaps it would be good to have a follow up call for:

  • Picking a county to starting to collecting reporting materials for,
  • The conversation on low cost air quality monitoring (purple air idea) we didn’t get to this time. Comment below, or on the email thread.


Hi, all -- one thing I wasn't able to share on the call but wanted to highlight as being pretty interesting was that some folks in Spain -- the IMVEC collective (@imvec and @xose among others on have built a prototype called -- and this summer they broadened it to be called to think about collecting reports of all different types of air/water pollution.

It's an interesting site to check out and I'd love to hear what you think (They posted about it here, if you want to reply directly: #17038)

It has photo uploads and space for other observations. We've been thinking about how these types of reports could also be "forwarded" to different agencies, and in follow-up to the discussion, it could be based on where you are.

Could be an opportunity to team up or collaborate depending on if it's a good fit, and I would guess they'd be open to making some modifications to better fit to the needs at hand here as well.

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