Water district board hears sand mine concerns

The Evergreen Underground Water Conservation District (EUWCD) board of directors listened to two residents’ concerns over a proposed frac sand mine processing plant in Atascosa and Bexar counties at a meeting Jan. 27.

Annabel Salinas, McCoy Water Supply office manager, spoke in hopes the board would shed light on the water demand and requested permit amounts for these wells. She said McCoy has two main production wells in the area.

“We are also drilling a new well at that location,” Salinas said. “We appreciate your time and attention to this matter and are assured that the EUWCD will protect the water resources for all users.”

EUWCD field technician Matt Pope said the board has little knowledge of the proposed plant.

The company planning the plant, Sand Mining of Texas, had a water consultant meet with the EUWCD when they were drilling to test the draw down. Pope said he did not believe the consultant gave them numbers on the demand they are looking at.

“He assured us they would be recycling 90 percent of their water usage, I believe is what he said,” “Nobody has come to us to change ownership on any permits, to apply for any drilling permits or production permits.”

EUWCD assistant manager Chris McFarlane said the company would be subject to the rules in place.

“If they want to acquire an enormous amount of water, they are going to have to acquire a lot of land,” he said. “We’re aware of what is impending. I talked with their water consultant yesterday… [he] still hasn’t disclosed the company name, but they have gone ahead and purchased 300-plus acres of land. As it stands, they are entitled to 600 acre feet. I understand your concern for this and rightfully so. As we get more information we would be happy to keep you in the loop.”

Larry Fox, EUWCD board member, said he believes the company plans to make frac sand out of the site’s existing minerals through a chemical process. Regarding water usage, Fox said, “I’ve heard some reports say a trillion gallons, and that is not even feasible. Other estimates are 1 million to

3 million gallons per day.”

The board and EUWCD staff also expressed concerns over the proposed site, which is in a recharge zone.

“If they are using any sort of open ponds or pits, anything that could get into the ground water, that would be our main concern,” Pope said. “Their water usage, like Chris said, is going to be regulated like everyone else.”

Applewhite Road resident Russell Wilson of the concerned citizen’s group spoke later in the meeting. He said the company Sand Mining of Texas has applied to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality for air quality permits. Wilson noted the company’s address matches the one of Preferred Sands in Pennsylvania.

He added the group’s opposition centers around environmental issues, such as the amount of water usage. Wilson said he has not received much information on Sand Mining of Texas.

The facility could deplete the water resources, he said, which are limited in a drought zone area. The proposed frac sand mine would be processing a product that will affect both current and future generations, Wilson said.

He said the group is working with state and county officials, including Atascosa County Judge Bob Hurley.

“Putting it in an area that sensitive environmentally that has this many families and this population density is not a good thing,” Wilson said.

Jay Troell, EUWCD board member, explained that frac sand has to be spherical in nature. The sand in Atascosa County is flat and unsuitable for fracking, he said.

Wilson responded, “From what I understand, they are going to have to have some type of tumbling and processing facility to get it to that point. I have looked at a sample of frac sand that came from the site and our sand. It is much different.”

The frac sand Wilson saw was much finer than sand found locally, he said. He also said the proposed site is between 2,000-3,000 acres.

The EUWCD and Wilson then discussed the company proposing the plant. Wilson said Sand Mining of Texas could be a subsidiary of Preferred Sands. Creating a separate company limits liabilities, he said.

An audience member mentioned the proposed site goes into Bexar County, which is an unregulated area for water. Wilson said that is correct from the information he has.

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