Sand Mines On Hold In LaSalle County

Apr 30, 2013

Yesterday on Morning Edition, we updated you on the contaminated water situation in the small LaSalle County town of Wedron. Today, we check in on another on-going environmental issue in the county: sand mining. 

One of the many active sand mines in LaSalle County.
Credit Susan Stephens / WNIJ

There are already a number of sand mines in LaSalle County, but opposition to expansion is growing. Northern Illinois University geology professor Melissa Lenczewski says the area sits atop a goldmine of sand prized for its commercial uses:

“They have what’s called St. Peter sandstone. It’s really beautiful sand. It’s all about the same size grain, so they don’t have to do any sorting of sizes. It’s almost a pure sand so there’s really nothing else in there that they have to remove.”

The sand has been found to be especially suited for use in fracking, where it is used to hold open fissures in rock so gas and oil can be removed. That has increased demand for mining in the county, including  construction of another mine near Starved Rock State Park. Environmentalists and neighbors have opposed mining expansion, saying it will harm wildlife, groundwater, and tourism. Earlier this month, LaSalle County put a moratorium on new sand mines and the expansion of old mines, until November 1st.

WNIJ’s Susan Stephens spoke with Mike Harsted about the future of sand mining in central Illinois. Harsted is LaSalle County’s Director of Environmental Service and Land Use. Harsted says there will be a series of public hearings about the sand mining and other county priorities over the next few months.