Nearly a fifth of Wisconsin’s 70 active frac sand mines and processing plants were reportedly cited for environmental violations last year, as the industry continued to expand at a rapid clip, according to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
Violations included air pollution, starting construction without permits, and an accident at a mine in Trempealeau County where a mudslide during a heavy rainstorm damaged a neighboring property.
In addition, the DNR sent out letters of noncompliance – warnings to fix a problem before it becomes serious enough to merit a notice of violation – at numerous facilities.
DNR compliance officials acknowledged they have been stretched thin monitoring the sand industry, which has grown from a handful of sites five years ago to more than 100 permitted mining, processing or transport facilities today. Wisconsin is the nation’s leading supplier of frac sand.
Gov. Scott Walker has proposed two new DNR positions in his budget to monitor the sand industry, by shifting $223,000 from other parts of the budget.