Canadian Manufacturing

Alberta issues health advisory to residents after frac sand spill

Alberta Health Services officials said about 580 tonnes of frac sand spilled June 17 in Bashaw, Alta.

BASHAW, Alta.—Health officials have issued an advisory for residents of a central Alberta town more than a month after a spill of sand used in fracking.

Alberta Health Services (AHS) says the spill happened June 17 at the Wild Rose Country Commodities Inc. site near a Canadian National Railway Co. (CN) site in the town of Bashaw, between Calgary and Edmonton.

Officials say it involved about 580 tonnes of frac sand.

AHS says the spill has been cleaned up, but advised anyone who removed sand from the site to take precautions.

Frac sand is a very fine crystalline silica material and can easily be mistaken for sand used in children’s sandboxes or playgrounds.

AHS says direct exposure to it or inhalation of it can pose a health risk, but adds limited, short-term exposure isn’t expected to cause serious health effects.

Precautions include dampening the sand by misting with water to control dusts and the transmission of airborne particulates.

The material should then be securely bagged and disposed of at a municipal landfill.

AHS advises not to inhale the dust, which may be created during the handling of the product.

It also says to wear goggles and respiratory protection.

The United States Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OHSA) says hydraulic fracturing sand contains up to 99 per cent silica.

Breathing silica can cause silicosis, a lung disease where tissue around trapped silica particles reacts, causing inflammation and scarring and reducing the lungs’ ability to take in oxygen.

Workers who breathe silica day after day are at greater risk of developing silicosis.

Fracking extracts otherwise inaccessible oil and gas by fracturing rocks with high-pressure injections of water and other compounds.

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