The Winneshiek County Board of Supervisors has unanimously endorsed a study that will address the public health impact of frac-sand mining.

At Monday's meeting, the Board endorsed the proposed study, which would be a collaboration between the University of Iowa and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Dr. Peter Thorne, head of the Department of Occcupational and Environmental Health and director of the Environmental Health Sciences Research Center at the University of Iowa, will apply for the grant from the National Institute of Health, on behalf of Winneshiek County.

Last month, the Board heard a presentation from Tom Peters of the University of Iowa regarding air quality and the effects of particulate matter as the result of frac-sand mining; however, Peters said there was no money available for the University to conduct further study.

Since then, the county was contacted by Dr. David Osterberg of the U of I's Occupational and Environmental Health Department. He said the National Institute of Health has grant monies available for such a study.

"This is good and interesting news," said Supervisor Dean Thompson.

What it covers

Thompson explained, if funded, the study would encompass two things: 1) It would evaluate community risks associated with increased ambient particulate matter (PM) exposures from sand-mining operations through air monitoring, air shed-level modeling and risk assessment; and 2) Facilitate communications to assess community concerns and report on findings from item No. 1.

The endorsement letter sent to the University of Iowa said "Facilitated communications that involve citizens, local government and industry representatives, in preparation for and following scientific assessment, will also benefit Winneshiek County and other counties and municipalities where frac-sand mining operations are under way or may take place."

"This study would be at no cost to the county," explained Thompson, adding the Board's endorsement would "make a difference in the grant review."

Thompson said the study would include areas in Iowa and Minnesota.

"It doesn't exclude Minnesota, but how they would be included is yet to be determined," explained Thompson.

Thompson said the study could begin as early as September, and the information obtained by air-quality monitoring could be available a year after it begins.

"That would be well within our moratorium," said Thompson, referring to an 18-month moratorium the Board instituted last month, which is scheduled to last until November 2014. (Included in the moratorium language is the Board's ability to either lift or extend the moratorium at any time during its duration.)

Thompson explained the study would likely include public outreach and meetings.

The Board endorsed the proposal "Exposure Assessment and Outreach to Engage the Public on Health Risks from Frac Sand Mining."

Thompson said he had no information about how long it will take to find out if the grant is approved.