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Sand mining operation damages city property

A sand mining operation one-quarter mile south of Hudson Road and east of Settlers Ridge Parkway needed city approval for a conditional use permit Wednesday, Sept. 28. Staff photo by Riham Feshir

Holding a jar of sand in her hand, Shann Finwall told Woodbury City Council Wednesday, Sept. 28 that a sand mining operation near a residential neighborhood "sure can't be good for your lungs."

"My car is full of this stuff. We're breathing this stuff. It's hazardous," she added.

Finwall lives about a mile away from a sand mining operation that took the blame for contaminating a city property near its eastern boundary in May.

Woodbury City Council signed a settlement agreement with Preferred Sands of Minnesota, one of the two companies also requesting annual renewal of a conditional use permit for the operation, to clean up the mess.

The city owns about 65 acres of open space and park land located directly east of the mining property.

Preferred Sands developed a settling pond to the east for water recycling and other uses, but in May of this year, the pond failed causing a discharge of silt, sand and water onto city land.

The city hired a consultant to assess the damage, which concluded that about 4.5 acres of city property needed repairs.

The agreement states that about 2.5 acres of the damaged property is wetlands governed by the Wetland Conservation Act and will be restored separately.

The remaining 2 acres are upland forest that require restoration costing $150,000.

The city requested that Preferred Sands pay $75,000 by the end of September, and the rest in $15,000 installments every year until 2016.

Finwall applauded the city for efforts on the settlement, but she wanted to make sure that control measures, once promised, are kept up on a daily basis.

Community Development Director Dwight Picha said the site, which also includes operations by Black Diamond, Inc., prompted complaints of uncontrollable dust in the spring and summer of this year.

But he said the companies implemented a plan for noise and dust control and truck traffic.

"We believe that those measures meet the intent of the permit," Picha added.

Finwall said some of those measures weren't in place before and that the dust reaches homes in her neighborhoods.

"It just leads me to believe that nobody is looking out for the neighbors living there now," she added.

Preferred Sands Plant Manger Todd Murchison said crews are now sweeping the streets from 2 to 7 p.m. daily to control the dust, along with a dust control system around the site.

"We constantly are making upgrades to reduce the dust that we see," he said, later adding, "When you get wind, it's Minnesota and things get dust."

Preferred Sands began the sand mining operation in 1972. Then in the early 1980s, Black Diamond started creating products used for blasting, roofing or seal coating.

Existing operations at the site include Black Diamond's offices, storage facilities and processing equipment.

Black Diamond's operations are slated for completion in 2013, while Preferred Sands is scheduled to end in 2017.

City Council approved the renewal of a conditional use permit to operate the site by both companies.

"It seems there have been some issues but it seems like they have been resolved," council member Amy Scoggins said.

Riham Feshir
Riham Feshir is a reporter and photographer for the Woodbury Bulletin. Her coverage includes Woodbury City Hall, Washington County Board of Commissioners and business news.  Follow Riham on Twitter @RihamFeshir for the latest updates.