Widespread environmental violations at WI frac sand mines

Almost 20% of Wisconsin's 70 operating frac sand mines and processing plants were cited for environmental violations in 2012, according to data obtained by the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism. 80 to 90 percent of sand industry operators were issued letters of noncompliance, a reversal of the typical statistics for a regulated industry, according to DNR air management engineer Marty Sellers.

The DNR is so understaffed and lacking in resources that it is appealing to citizens to report any possible air or water quality violations. That's just what happened on April 22, 2012, when a hiker reported a wastewater spill flowing into the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway near Grantsburg that had already been flowing for five days. A separate spill near Blair sent a 6-foot-high wall of sludge into an Amish farmer's house and farm buildings. Both cases are currently in court, and it will likely be months before fines and penalties are issued to the offending mine operators.

To learn how you can get involved, join WNPJ at our spring steering committee meeting in Eau Claire. There will be a presentation on frac sand mining with local activists Pat Popple, publisher of the Frac Sand Sentinel, and Heather Andersen of the Save the Hills Alliance.