Trempealeau Lawmaker Proposes Adding DNR Staff To Monitor Frac Sand Mines


State Rep. Chris Danou, D-Trempealeau, has introduced legislation that will help the Department of Natural Resources better monitor frac sand mines.

The Trempealeau County representative is familiar with frac sand mining: His Assembly district has more approved mines and processing facilities than any other in the state. Danou says the DNR is understaffed and can’t keep up with the industry’s growth, so he’s introduced a bill that creates eight more positions.

“Right now there’s so much activity going on that there just aren’t enough people to go out there and really do adequate inspections,” says Danou. “What’s concerning to me was when they were doing inspections they were finding violations.”

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Last spring, four frac sand companies in Danou’s District were issued violations for allowing wastewater to leak into wetlands. Danou says since the DNR doesn’t have the staff to monitor the sites sand companies are policing themselves.

“We just need to put more people on the ground to get out there and inspect these sights and make sure they’re complying with the law,” he says.

But some lawmakers think the state is doing enough. State Sen. Sheila Harsdorf, R-River Falls, says the counties, towns and villages are already monitoring the frac sand companies. “Many of the issues are dealt with at the local level, so local governments can actually determine what they want within their municipality.”

Danou’s request for more DNR staff must be approved by the Republican-controlled Joint Finance Committee before it can move forward.