The state of Wisconsin is currently experiencing a fracking boom. As energy extraction projects increase, sand from the mines is jettisoned into the air and poses health risks for locals. Officials for the New Auburn school district have installed air filters in order to keep the dangerous particles from entering the lungs of their students.
During fracking, water and a host of chemicals are mixed together and pumped into the earth where it forces open fractures that release natural gas and oil. This process has allowed for a $1 billion-a-year industry to spring up near residential areas. Four sand mines exist within a few miles of schools located in Barron and Chippewa counties. Tests of existing filters sent into a lab in Madison by the superintendent confirmed the presence of silica. In response, schools such as those in New Auburn have introduced the air filters as a precautionary method to avoid diseases such as silicosis, cancer, and pulmonary tuberculosis.
The level of fracking operation depends on the regulations set by each municipality within the state. However, Senate Bill 349 could make it difficult for communities to set limits on energy companies. A total of 115 fracking sites and processing plants exist in Wisconsin. The Department of Health Services insist that they do not have the resources to conduct large scale studies on air quality. Experts at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire suggest that particulate levels in the air are three times above EPA standards.