Silica drilling, smelter proposal raise concerns

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I am writing with my concerns about both the exploratory drilling proposed on national forest land on Green Mountain by Pend Oreille Silica Inc. and the plans of HiTest Sands Inc. to build a silica smelter near Newport.

In regard to the exploratory drilling I understand that they are proposing that two holes be dug to a maximum depth of 200 feet. This forest land lies in the Sand Creek-Lake Pend Oreille watershed.

My opinion is that this potential action would open up a can of worms. If they find the deposits they are looking for, then they most certainly will be coming for more.

Silica mines and smelters create silica dust which is a known carcinogen. Residents near mines and quarries are exposed to respirable crystalline silica. Fugitive dust emissions blow off of these sites and is likely to enter the lungs of those that live near them. That includes not just people, but all residents, wildlife included. Landing in the watershed could spread the dust further, effecting water quality.

Breathing silica causes silicosis which is a serious and incurable lung condition. Symptoms of silicosis may not manifest for 15 to 20 years after dust exposure. Even if dust is not visible to the eye there is a risk of silicosis. If dust is visible, the risk of silicosis is almost definite.

Do we want to open up this can of worms on national forest land near the lake? Do we want to open up this can of worms for the residents of Newport and surrounding areas? Why would we jeopardize the health of this area for the profit of Pend Oreille Silica and HiTest Sands Inc?

I hope that permission for these projects is denied. I hope others who feel strongly about this will add their voice to the conversation.

CYNTHIA MASON

Hope

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