By Emily Bialkowski
Interest over industrial frac sand mining in Houston County has weighed heavy on the hearts of several county residents, and the disbandment of the frac sand study committee has these residents bending the ears of their county commissioners in the name of health, safety and welfare.
The majority of public comment shared during the April 23 county board meeting dealt with frac sand mining.
Bruce Kuehmichel said the study committee – disbanded on April 19 – had blatantly disregarded county board directives, “Specifically over the prohibition of sand washing with or without flocculents,” and demonstrated a, “callous indifference to the 2008 Comprehensive Land Use Plan of this county.”
Sue Van Gorp said she “painfully observed” the study committee in action and was “horrified” by what she describes as a pro-mining bias.
“I wonder if members of the study committee care about what Houston County residents think at all. Please protect our precious environment and the health, safety and welfare of the people who elected you,” she said.
Brian Van Gorp said he felt those representing the construction mining industry were confused by the scale to which industrial mining takes place. “Commissioners do have the right to ban frac sand mining; you have the right for local control. Take a conservative approach and prioritize the health, safety and welfare of residents. Experts say there are too many unknowns,” he said.
At the end of the regular board meeting, during the commissioner reports and comments section, Commissioner Dana Kjome asked, “Where are we going with the draft ordinance?”
“I think for right now the board should maintain control from here on out,” Board Chair Justin Zmyewski said, adding that the topic should be a standing agenda item that is chipped away at each week.
A draft mining ordinance was presented by the county’s attorney Jay Squires Feb. 12, during which time Squires suggested the county consider tweaking several items.