DNR asks Feds to prosecute two frac-sand companies


The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has referred two frac sand companies to the Department of Justice for prosecution.

Interstate Energy Partners and Preferred Sands of Wisconsin are the first frac sand companies in the state to face possible prosecution for environmental violations. Both are based in Minnesota and both mine in Wisconsin for frac sand, which is used for oil and gas drilling elsewhere in the country. The Interstate Energy mine, located in Burnett County, is accused of letting sediment escape the mine. Deb Dix is an Environmental Enforcement Specialist with the DNR:

“It was referred due to the number of alleged violations with their permit conditions and the fact that it was discharged to a wetland and then the St. Croix River, which is a national and scenic waterway.

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Dix says even though the discharged sediment is just sand and muddy water, it still disturbs habitat:

“Large volumes of sand that’s not native to the environment that it’s discharged into can fill in areas like spawning areas.”

The Preferred Sands mine site is located in Trempealeau County. There, a rainstorm caused a waste sand pile to slide 2,100 feet down a coulee, causing serious damage to an Amish building in the process. Dix says the mine had already been under enforcement prior to its purchase by Preferred Sands:

“They had remediated in the areas that were part of the alleged violations at that time. So, these areas were different than what were involved there.”

Preferred Sands has also been warned about alleged air violations. Neither company returned calls for comment.

The Department of Justice says it’ll likely be a month before the any action is taken on these cases. Fines against the frac sand companies could range from $10 to $100,000.