City of PdC collects dust samples relating to Pattison Sand operations

Prairie du Chien Co-Manager of Public Works Terry Meyer collects a sample of sand from the transloading site operated by Pattison Sand Company along the Highway 18 Bypass in the city. The sample will be sent along with three or four others from area residences and a construction site to a state lab in Madison for analysis.

By Correne Martin
The city of Prairie du Chien has taken the initiative to collect dust samples in and around the Pattison Sand transloading site for testing by the Wisconsin Occupational Health Laboratory (WOHL) in Madison. This action is in response to years of complaints by city residents about dust in their homes near the site, in addition to noise and other concerns. It also follows a recent proposal of an expansion of the Wisconsin and Southern Railroad property along the Highway 18 Bypass where Pattison Sand Company performs some of its operations.

The Prairie du Chien Common Council will discuss this recent course of action at its Tuesday night, July 15 meeting (7 p.m., council chambers).

“The catalyst for this was finding out the day after our last meeting (of the council, July 1) that Pattison was cited by the Wisconsin DNR with a letter of non-compliance after a May investigation on the local transloading site,” City Administrator Aaron Kramer said. He noted the non-compliance appeared to deal with Pattison not filing proper paperwork or keeping proper records, and not an imminent health or safety matter.

“This effort is not in response to any one single health-related event,” Kramer noted. “I, and others, have heard or read about several health-related issues, but, to date, and despite our requests, not one person has stepped forward with any tangible medical-related evidence to work off of. So, I would say this collection effort has been caused by a number of factors.”

In a memo Kramer emailed to the council July 10 about the dust analysis, he stated, “On July 2, I contacted Marty Sellers, air quality official for the La Crosse DNR office, to inquire as to the cost of conducting air quality testing, based on the recent comments of residents relative to the dust in their homes. Sellers stated that an air quality monitoring system would cost between $30,000 and $40,000. He also cautioned against doing such a test since the margin of error could be too large. He said the DNR would not provide any funding for such a test. Instead, he recommended a particle identification analysis to be performed.”

Kramer discussed the matter with Mayor Dave Hemmer, Jean Titlbach, protection and health committee chairman, and Kyle Kozelka, public works committee chairman. The consensus was to proceed with the dust particulate analysis. Kramer also spoke with Dick Kittel, a technician at the WOHL, and learned the cost for the analysis would be $310 per sample.

So, last week, Kramer himself and Co-Manager of Public Works Terry Meyer started taking samples, utilizing an online guide to collecting them,  as well conferring with Kittel and other members of the WOHL staff.
They collected dust at two residences on Overview Court, which is in the immediate vicinity of Pattison’s local operations. A third residence may serve as a sampling site too. Then, on the transloading site itself, they collected a sample of the product and also swabbed a canvas sheath covering a chute, from which sand comes out at 180 degrees. Finally, they collected dust from a construction site a considerable distance away. At each location, they obtained a signed memorandum of understanding from the owner and took pictures as well.

Now, this week, the four to five samples will be transported directly to Madison by city officials. They will be placed in protective custody by the state lab until the testing is completed, within three to four weeks. The tests will ultimately be the city’s property.

After the results come in, the city’s protection and health committee or a committee of the whole will likely meet and review the results. “Obviously the big unknown is what if the dust samples show something ‘suspicious?’ and by suspicious, I mean, the dust samples in the homes match some of the dust sample matter from the unloading site. The folks in Madison have already cautioned me that they will not be able to directly match particulate matter to particulate matter. Dust, silica, etc. does not have a DNA, if you will,” said Kramer.

The budget for the analysis will be determined by the council Tuesday, July 15, however Kramer expects it to be in the neighborhood of $1,000 to $1,500. More details about the dust particulate analysis will be provided at the meeting Tuesday night. The public is welcome to attend.

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