An Alabama company’s purchase of a former lumber operation in eastern La Crosse County has fueled speculation it could become a sand processing and shipping plant in the region.

Southern Precision Sands LLC bought the property between Bangor and Rockland for an estimated $900,000 late last year, county officials said.

The Birmingham, Ala.-based company is known for producing resin-coated sand for the natural gas extraction process known as fracking.

A number of properties in neighboring Monroe and Trempealeau counties have been acquired in recent months in what some have called a regional sand boom.

Webster Hardwoods closed the plant late in 2007. It had been among the largest hardwood lumber and railroad tie producers in the Midwest.

The site has rail access suitable for shipping, said Jeff Bluske, director of the county Zoning and Planning Department. 

The company has not filed for any permits or other paperwork required to open a plant at the site, Bluske said.

Attempts to contact someone Wednesday to speak for the company were unsuccessful.

While the land is zoned industrial, the company would need a zoning occupancy permit to put up any new buildings or if the operation might emit chemicals, fumes, gases, noise, vibration or dust that could affect neighboring properties.

The state Department of Natural Resources could be involved as well, such as for a particulate permit for any airborne materials from processing or transport.

Such sand processing operations also can consume considerable amounts of water, enough to potentially affect local water tables, Bluske said. Other factors to consider with such a business would be heavy truck traffic and whether a spur would be needed to improve rail service.

The town of Bangor would have a say in the process as well.  

The prospect of hundreds of trucks rumbling through the village of Bangor enroute to the site led its board Tuesday to delay a $368,000 upgrade of Wheldon Street.

Village Public Works Director Steve Baker recommended postponing the road work after hearing the property could be the collection site for four farms purchased in other counties for sand mining.

Baker said he was told as many as 400 trucks a day would pass through Bangor. The county would have to upgrade the road, including Commercial Street, which also is Hwy. 162, he said.

One possible benefit of the county upgrading the road, Baker said, would be that contractors might charge a lower price on the Wheldon Street work if both projects could be combined.

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