Chippewa County (WQOW) - One of the largest oil and gas companies in the U.S. is hoping new air monitors in Chippewa County will help clear the air about concerns over silica dust.
On Monday, WQOW News 18 was given access to an air monitor outside EOG's processing facility in Chippewa Falls. Recently, the company started independent sampling programs at three locations in Chippewa County and a fourth will be added in Barron County this month.
Each site measures sand particles known as PM4 crystalline silica. Sand mining is a source of crystalline silica which can cause silicosis, a lung disease. Silicosis is a serious occupational hazard, but what isn't known is whether dust released into the air outside of sand mines is a serious public health concern.
The sampling will be done upwind and downwind. EOG will provide the data to the DNR, which will analyze that information for a report covering a full year. That report should be ready in the first quarter of 2014.
*****STATEMENT FROM EOG*****
"EOG is committed to protecting the health and safety of its employees and neighbors in the communities where we operate, and feels strongly about the benefits of gathering and sharing data that has been compiled according to recognized protocols and interpreted using accepted scientific methods.
EOG has recently begun independent ambient PM4 crystalline silica sampling programs at three locations in Chippewa County and will be adding a fourth location to the program in Barron County in November. The sampling program at each of these EOG sites measures sand particles known as PM4 crystalline silica (based on their size, density and other physical properties) that are suspended in the outdoor air.
The sampling is done at an upwind location and at a downwind location, and the sampling equipment is specifically designed for this type of outdoor application. A 10-meter high tower with wind speed and wind direction sensors obtains the meteorological data needed to evaluate the movement of particulate matter in the ambient air along with small meteorological stations mounted adjacent to the samplers.
An accredited lab is analyzing the PM4 crystalline silica levels on the filters using recognized scientific methods and an expert in ambient air monitoring is reviewing and evaluating the laboratory analyses, meteorological data and other information.
With this sampling program, EOG will be able to obtain additional information regarding the air quality around these locations. The data being generated by the sampling program will be provided to WDNR on an ongoing basis for their review."