Over 400 signatures have been collected so far in an online petition addressed to State Representative Karen Boback to stop a proposed silica sand transfer station on State Route 6 in Tunkhannock. Ninety-six additional signatures were needed as of June 11 to reach the goal of 500.
The petition web page, hosted by change.org and initiated by Betty Ann Weaver-Shaver, of Tunkhannock, reads, “If this project is given the green light, it will have the potential for serious detrimental consequences affecting the health of our community. Our children’s community sports complexes, a daycare facility, the town itself and Susquehanna River are all within a close proximity to the proposed site. It will pollute our air with dangerous silica dust. Traffic conditions will be maxed out and the proposed site is already a dangerous, congested intersection.”
The proposal for the station, which is to be located near the intersection of Route 92 and the Route 6 bypass (across from Dunkin’ Donuts), was first introduced by the company D&I Silica, based in Sheffield, to the public during the December Wyoming County Planning Commission meeting, according to County Planning Director Nicole Wootten.
Attempts to reach D&I Silica for comment were unsuccessful. However, a statement on the company’s website addresses some potential concerns, such as traffic, noise, dust, water and health hazards and ecosystem risk.
“We engage with communities at the earliest possible stage when evaluating these concerns for prospective sites,” the website reads. “We regularly attend community meetings and interact often with residents to reduce any possible concerns for potential risks and disturbance. Once operations begin, we are committed to the needs of our customers and sustaining the safety of the communities where we live and work.”
Many community members, however, don’t feel “engaged” or “safe.”
Through word of mouth and Internet social networking, Tunkhannock residents are urging each other to attend the next Wyoming County Planning Commission meeting at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, June 18 at the EMS building on Route 6 and stand in opposition to the project.
Wootten said a vote regarding the issue is not on the upcoming agenda and will be taken in July, at the earliest.
Shaver, although active in opposing the project, is not optimistic of a positive outcome. The Tunkhannock resident said the 400 signatures — some of which she already delivered to Representative Boback — are good, but in a town of thousands, not good enough.
Boback responded to the petition, “I do not represent Tunkhannock Township currently, but I appreciate the concerns of the residents. I encourage all those who are concerned to attend upcoming township and county planning commission meetings.”
“Sadly, we do know this project will eventually fly,” Shaver said. “With the gas industry in full swing here in Tunkhannock and around, there is also a bit of greed.”
She said the picture in her mind of the town’s future with the silica sand transfer station located at the proposed site closely reflects the sad story told in a YouTube video documenting a similar situation in the nearby town of Wyalusing.
The video, available for viewing online at http://youtu.be/-iTCRJ6I_zM, was created by Scott Cannon, a professional video producer from Plymouth. It depicts the sand-covered Wyalusing Silica Sand Transfer Station, located next to a large daycare center and within a mile of three public schools.
According to an OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) fact sheet, crystalline silica (sometimes called “fracking sand,” as it is used as a major component in hydraulic fracturing) is a basic component of soil, sand, granite and other minerals, of which the most common form is quartz. Classified as a human lung carcinogen, or substance which can cause cancer, silica dust is also known to cause silicosis when it enters the lungs and forms scar tissue, reducing the ability to take in oxygen. There is no cure for the disease, and it can, in severe cases, be disabling or fatal.