I-Team: New business in Ste. Genevieve County now operating despite opposition

Published: Sep. 11, 2014 at 1:47 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 11, 2014 at 10:24 PM CDT
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For those who live in rural America, it's probably safe to say they'd like to keep it rural.

Most probably wouldn't welcome industry right next door.

Some Ste. Genevieve County homeowners continue to fight a change in landscape.

Dewayne and Lori Slinkard love country living.

They live along Trogden Road in Ste. Genevieve County.

Until early this summer, the road outside of the Slinkard's home was a barely traveled gravel road that led only to homes and farms.

Mike and Kaie Shaffer live at the corner of Trogden and Colony Church roads.

Just across the street from their home is a new sand quarry, Summit Proppants.

"You feel misled by this whole thing?" asked Crystal Britt.

"Yes...everyone does," said Mike Shaffer.

The project caught everyone off guard thanks to a loophole in the permitting process through the Department of Natural Resources that the company used to avoid notifying neighbors about its plans.

"I was very concerned at that point," said Shaffer.

The presiding county commissioner says he was concerned too.

"I contacted our attorney to see if there was any control we had over it," said Garry Nelson. "I have this response right here which says without planning and zoning, if the DNR gives permits, we have no"

Nelson says voters approved planning and zoning back in the early 1990s.

"It lasted 2-3 years, then was voted back out," said Nelson.

Voters sent a message that they didn't want the county to tell them what they can and cannot do with their private property.

"That's what's happening here," said Nelson.

Instead of fighting a battle they would likely lose, the county decided to embrace the inevitable.

It started with the paving of Trogden Road through a maintenance agreement with Summit Proppants.

"We bargained up to 15 cents a ton," said Nelson.

That money will be used to help keep the road in shape.

The county is the guarantor on that loan, which makes some homeowners uneasy.

The county sees it differently.

"If they go out of business we get a road for almost nothing," said Nelson.

The homeowners' concerns, however, are much bigger than asphalt.

Number one, they are worried about the environment.

"It's a health hazard, it's our first concern," said Lori Slinkard.

Lori has a 9-year-old son who she says already has breathing problems.

The Slinkards and other locals are worried about potentially harmful dust from the sand.

"It causes major breathing problems and will be traveling through the air," said Mike Shaffer.

The next concerns are traffic and noise.

"We have someone who says there's going to be semi trucks passing our house every five minutes for 30 years...that's unreasonable," said Mike Shaffer.

The other big concern, is water.

The plant reportedly plans to use about 165,000 gallons of water a day.

Neighbors worry about their own wells.

They're a little skittish considering what happened down the road in Brewer, Missouri.

"That mine sucked the whole town of Brewer's water dry," said Dewayne Slinkard.

There were also several reports of damage caused due to blasting.

That sparked legal action.

That plant in Perry County is re-opening under a different name, Fairmount Santrol.

Plant manager Brian Francis says Fairmount Santrol is expecting to begin operations within the next six months.

"We have begun the interviewing and hiring process, and we are making investments at the facility," said Francis. "The opening of this plant will create high-quality jobs in the immediate area, and will help our company meet growing customer demand for high-performance sand and sand-based products primarily in the oil and gas industry."

Concerned homeowners in Saint Genevieve County are worried about whether what initially happened in Brewer could happen to them.

"They (Summit Proppants) guaranteed if water became a problem, they'd fix it," said Garry Nelson. "We got a guarantee if they start blasting and cracking basements that they'll fix them."

The president of Summit Proppants would not answer any of our questions. So, we can't bring you their side of the story.

The county says while there appears to be more negatives, the positives are economic development and job creation.

"Is it really worth it?" asked Dewayne Slinkard.

"We understand their concerns, but understand we can't stop it," said Garry Nelson.

"We're just trying to protect our families, and as landowners...protect our land," said Slinkard.

Some of the homeowners have hired an attorney and are fighting what they can in court.

According to Garry Nelson, Summit Proppants is now in operation. The company would not confirm that to Heartland News.

Another concern that homeowners have is making sure the trucks that drive Trodgen Road abide by the 25 mile per hour speed limit.

Nelson says that is something the county will police, the best it can.

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