Reclamation at Covia’s Menomonie Plant

Feb 8, 2024 1:45 PM ET
Aerial topography of the reclamation site.

Covia's Menomonie plant, located in Menomonie, Wisconsin, was built in 2007 and employs 13 dedicated team members. The team at Menomonie takes pride in their ability to produce at a high level with such a small staff, and to do so safely: in 2023, they had zero reportable incidents!

The site itself has an interesting geological history as it was formed during the Ice Age and is part of the Driftless Area. Wondering why driftless? Well, this part of the United States, where Wisconsin, Iowa, and Minnesota meet, was bypassed by the last continental glacier. The area was not flattened and smoothed by the advance of the glaciers, and it did not receive the deposits of “drift,” the silt and gravel left behind as the glaciers retreated. Hence the name driftless.

The plant was originally designed to serve one of Covia's glass customers due to the unique, round shape of the sand found there. They now supply products for roofing shingles and are exploring new markets such as 3D printing and the equestrian market. Menomonie’s main goal is to increase the number of products they move out the door, and they are proud of their initiatives – for example, they recently ventured into the dairy market, where sand is used for bedding in stalls.

Commitment to Safety First

The Menomonie plant recently collaborated with the local fire department to test some new equipment. The equipment is designed to allow firefighters to descend vertically using a pulley system, which is particularly useful when dealing with tall buildings or steep cliffs along the Chippewa River, which can reach heights of 100 feet or more. If someone becomes trapped or stuck, the right equipment and rescue plan can mean life or death. However, it’s difficult to find suitable training sites for vertical rescues. Covia was able to provide a safe location to evaluate the equipment and emergency plans. During the training, the team demonstrated how they would rescue someone from a screen tower using only the pulley system. The fire rescue team spent several hours conducting the drills and was able to provide valuable information to ensure preparedness.

A Success Story of Reclamation

Responsible land use is embedded throughout the life cycle of our operations – from our careful approach to early development and operational planning, to our production phase, all the way through our collaborative reclamation process aimed at protecting, restoring and nurturing the land and biodiversity. In 2023, Covia's Menomonie, Wisconsin Plant was at the forefront of our reclamation efforts.

The team at Menomonie is committed to Covia’s stewardship work. The plant had a very productive year of reclamation in 2023. The former mining area, highlighted in yellow in the photo, is adjacent to city property. In collaboration with city authorities, Team Members at the Menomonie plant worked to restore the natural appearance of the landscape of this previously excavated area. They set out to reshape the hill to resemble a sand ridge, filled in the area and applied seed, and mulched to promote the regrowth of grass.

Throughout the process, they worked closely with both the landowners and the county to ensure that the restoration aligned with their preferences. To assist the plant in developing a comprehensive plan for the final appearance of the area, they enlisted the expertise of GZA GeoEnvironmental. The consultants helped modify the contours and determine the final elevations, taking into account the material that the plant could not sell that could be used as backfill. In 2023, the Menomonie team successfully completed the restoration nearly 7 acres of land. Given the proximity to the city, they diligently worked to minimize dust and were always mindful of the surrounding city.

Jeremy Wagner, Plant Manager at Covia's Menomonie Plant, shared his thoughts on their successful reclamation efforts. “This project has been a long time in the making. It has not only provided me with valuable insights on creating a final product, but also reminded me of the importance of collaboration across different departments. We take great pride in this achievement, and we eagerly anticipate the opportunity to carry on with this project in the future.”

Click here to learn more about Covia’s Environmental Stewardship.