Clayton County Sand Mine to Resume Work This Week After Fire

By Orlan Love, The Gazette

CLAYTON, Iowa — A fire in the Pattison Sand Co.’s underground mine was extinguished over the weekend, the Clayton County firm said in a statement released Tuesday.

Clark Ott, an environmental specialist with the Department of Natural Resources, confirmed that the fire, which broke out July 9, had been extinguished and that any health risks to nearby residents had passed.

Pattison spokeswoman Beth Regan said experts were brought in to help manage fire suppression efforts and to assess air quality as well as other environmental concerns.

“Smoke particle readings collected in the community were below levels of public health concern,” said Dr. Alan Nye, senior toxicologist with CTEH of Little Rock, Ark., who was on site by 5 a.m. Saturday to set up monitoring equipment near the mine and in the village of Clayton.

The smoke was similar to that emitted by diesel engines in trucks and locomotives, said Chip Day, fire suppression consultant with USES company of Houston.

Day, whose firm helps assess fire extinguishing measures and cleanups, called the fire “a minimal event.”

Regan said the fire was caused by welding sparks, which migrated to nearby plastic piping.

Chris Hensler, assistant manager of the Mining Safety and Health Administration’s North Central District, said the federal agency’s investigation is continuing and that it was too soon to tell if any safety code violations had been noted.

Regan said no one was injured in the fire or its aftermath and that production was expected to resume later this week.

The company mines sand used in the hydrofracturing, or fracking, process of extracting oil and natural gas.

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