DEQ and dept. of health meet for Yoder workshop

Rhett Breedlove
Posted 6/14/24

YODER – Yoder Mayor Normal Feagler along with town clerk/treasurer Lillian Green met at the community building Wednesday at 10 a.m. with representatives of both the Wyoming Department of …

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DEQ and dept. of health meet for Yoder workshop

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YODER – Yoder Mayor Normal Feagler along with town clerk/treasurer Lillian Green met at the community building Wednesday at 10 a.m. with representatives of both the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) as well as the Wyoming Department of Health to discuss ongoing public health and air quality concerns.

DEQ Air Quality Administrator, Nancy Vehr, along with state public health veterinarian, Emily Curren, sat with both Feagler and Green as part of a public workshop to address problems, and brainstorm potential solutions to fragmentary concerns related to sand frocking operations from Western Proppants near Yoder.

As mayor Feagler would explain the ongoing problems of heavy dust and noise is beginning to cause residents to relocate to other communities; something which could cause long term economic and social complications for Yoder if resolutions are not properly established.

“The only thing that disturbs me about the whole process with this company across the tracks is, I have people moving out of town because of the dust,” Feagler said. “I recently lost a good friend and neighbor who moved back to Nebraska. He was a Johnny-on-the-spot neighbor who helped people put roofs on their homes, helped them with their cars and helped me walk in the morning among other problems I have. Now he’s gone, and we are now losing people like that because of the dust. I have people telling me they have dust every day, and you can’t stop it. It’s a health problem. We have a lot of children in town, and they are breathing this stuff and all that pine dust.”

Mayor Feagler would explain to both Vehr and Curren although he himself is accustomed to intermittent harsh elements of Wyoming, the current and ongoing situation in Yoder appears to be becoming borderline dangerous for certain at-risk residents and small children.

As the Yoder mayor continued, the time has come where solutions must be presented to keep residents safe while also keeping Western Proppants up and running for solid local economic revenue. 

“I grew up on a farm and ranch. I know it’s tough,” Feagler said. “But we just can’t allow this to keep on happening. There has to be some kind of solution to regulate how much dust is coming into town. Somehow there has to be an answer, and I must admit I am frustrated. Mostly because there isn’t an immediate answer. I’m just looking for solutions in this workshop so we can get some positive answers.”

Vehr, on behalf of DEQ concurrenced with Feagler, advocating the situation does call for potential involvement from the state in order to help ensure health and safety of residents, and also plant personnel.

According to Vehr, there is a potential wide variety of things to be done for such an occasion. Additionally, however, it will take a great deal of cooperation and patience from residents. Presumably the matter will also take a fair amount of time to begin gathering factual data and information to determine exactly how big or little risk the dust actually possesses.

“I totally agree with you,” Vehr began. “It takes industry, it takes citizens and it takes government working together.”

As Vehr would explain in further detail, the approach with air and dust issues could possibly be similar in how DEQ handles ongoing issues with oil and gas. This way healthy regulations could possibly be made without removing crucial monetary income from any state or local businesses.

“There’s a lot of challenges we are trying to overcome from the air standpoint,” Vehr continued. “What we have noticed is a ramp-up in people calling saying there is way too much dust, odor and noise. We sent folks out and saw some elevated readings on the monitors, and then of course we are having this workshop here to kind of explore some more of that. Certain data we understand has some gaps as we are finishing up our analysis, so next time we can give you a further update on that. So this has actually progressed. When we were onsite, we were able to see their control room which is an improvement. A lot of times when companies are starting, they may not have sophisticated tools. It’s the same thing on these mineral processing facilities. That to me is an improvement probably during a five-month period of time. When you drive a car you have to break it in for a while, and it’s the same thing with these different types of equipment.”

“There are always areas which could use improvement, but to say it needs to be done right here right now I don’t see that,” Vehr continued. “There’s some stuff to be done in the short term, and stuff which is going to take longer to do. I got an overall sense of economic consequences of not having a business, but we also understand we want a business to operate while meeting environmental and health requirements for citizens. There’s not much mineral processing in Goshen County, so you are dealing with a workforce who is learning how to do these things. We have seen this in companies before where some of them are not well versed in environmental until they reach a certain size. What we are seeing is a learning curve progressing, not regressing. When there is a disconnect that’s when we see issues. I’m not saying this is presently happening here, but there are opportunities for further progression.”

Vehr continued by clarifying perhaps a good start in solving the problem would be setting up potential monitors throughout Yoder to give accurate readings on exactly how much dust the town is collecting, as well as any health issues they may cause.

According to Vehr the process is doable, but will require appropriate time and financing in order to do so.

“Once again, I think there is progress being made and the progress for today is monitoring. But it’s going to take state budgeted dollars to get through the process. I’m not concerned it won’t go through, but when it gets through we have to get this stuff quickly ordered and installed. The good news is we will get some additional news and data. Once we get it up and running, we will do an open house and talk to people about the monitors and how it looks. This part of it to me is a huge improvement based on this discussion we’ve had. It gives us more information and could show there is no concern, or it may show there is. We have to wait until we get the data, and most of the time data is not just one reading. We look for trends when we look at readings. It shows everything can be hunky dory, but then there’s a spike up. So that’s part of the information we have to figure out. The next workshop we have I can give you an update of what the analysis shows, and what we need to do next. I know it’s slow, especially when you are in the midst of something it’s never fast enough. But it helps us to stay on top of something when we have these regular touch points. I very much appreciate your willingness to continue to meet, and we will continue to coordinate with each other.”

After hearing ideas and possible solutions from Vehr, Mayor Feagler expressed sincere gratitude with the progression of the workshop’s discussions.

As Feagler put it further, more discussions and more participation will only lead the town further in the right direction in solving the problem.

“As long as we keep having open dialogues, things will continue to improve,” Feagler said. “So I am very happy in that respect, and we have to keep this up. As usual the more people involved, the better chances we have of finding a solution. Or someone may even have a idea better than what we already have.”

The workshop came to an end at 11:26 a.m.