Tue May 22, 2012
Two frac sand mining companies face penalties from DNR
Two frac sand mining companies in western Wisconsin face enforcement actions by the Department of Natural Resources. The actions result from sediment-laced runoff finding its way into waterways and a home.
The first runoff event occurred at a Burnett County frac sand mine and wash plant owned by Interstate Energy Partners. In late April, a hiker reported seeing brown, sediment filled water leaking into wetlands and the St. Croix River, a designated National Wild and Scenic Riverway. According to the DNR, the runoff was coming from a settling pond used to separate clay and other materials from the sand destined for oil drilling operations across the country. Tom Woletz is the DNR’s frac sand mining point of contact. He says excess sediment can change habitat in rivers and streams. Woletz says the DNR uses a stepped enforcement process beginning with warnings and leading up to enforcement conferences.
“We’re at that step right now with both these facilities.”
Woletz says the cases could be sent to local district attorneys for prosecution.
A much more dramatic runoff event happened in the Town of Preston in Trempealeau County. Woletz says there, an oversaturated pile of waste sand broke free, raced down a coulee, flooded a home and settled in a farm field near a river.
“Obviously when you get a five foot wall of water coming down and 18 inches of sludge in your house, that’s a very serious potential hazard, someone could have been killed had they been in there," he says.
Woletz says the frac sand slide was the first of it's kind in the state. Neither of the frac sand mining companies returned calls seeking comment yesterday.