DNR: Frac Sand Companies Failed To Contain Runoff During Torrential Rains


The DNR says six frac sand facilities have violated stormwater permits by allowing sediment to leak into nearby bodies of water. Heavy rains and poor runoff management are to blame.

During recent heavy rains, four frac sand mines in Trempealeau County and two in Barron County were unable to handle the influx of water. The rain mixed with heavy mud and fine sands and leaked into nearby streams, rivers and wetlands. Deb Dix is an environmental enforcement specialist and the new frac sand expert at the state’s Department of Natural Resources. She says Arcadia Sands, Alpine Sand, Sierra Sand, Superior Silica and Great Northern Sand are under enforcement action. She says leaks like this can cause serious environmental harm.

Dix: “It can damage small microorganisms within the stream, as it goes through it can settle on the stream bed as it flows through; it can settle down and it will destroy habitat. So, it’s really not good for the stream biology at all.”

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Dix says the recent rains were excessive but sand mining stormwater plans are supposed to be able to handle it. And, she says, they’re realizing traditional approaches to stormwater management like sediment barriers don’t work for the size and scope of frac sand mines.

Dix: “We’re looking at the need more for containment because it’s a heavier, larger volume of sediment that’s moving with the water than what we’ve historically seen on construction sites.”

Dix says six notices of violation have been issued; if the runoff issues are not resolved the DNR could consider referring the cases for prosecution. Two cases were referred to the State Attorney General’s office for prosecution last year. So far, no charges have been filed.