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Sand mining company to pay $80K for runoff

An Illinois-based sand mining company has agreed to pay an $80,000 fine in response to allegations that it failed to prevent untreated rainwater from running off a mine site in western Wisconsin.

According to a Wisconsin Department of Justice news release, inspectors first found on Oct. 9, 2012, that Warrenville, Ill.-based Alpine Sand LLC had not taken steps to keep stormwater laden with sediment from running off the company’s frack sand mine in Trempealeau County’s town of Arcadia. State officials returned to the site several times following storms and saw runoff from the mine entering Newcomb Valley Creek, a body of water that is listed as impaired by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

The discharges ran counter to Alpine’s stormwater permit, which required that runoff be retained in seepage areas or ponds on the mine site. Finding the violations, the DNR required Alpine Sand to produce a plan aimed at preventing water pollution, but the company failed to comply, according to the release.

Trempealeau County Judge John Damon approved the $80,000 judgment against the company Oct. 14, according to the release. The money will go to both Trempealeau County and the state; $5,000 will be used to cover lawyers’ fees.

A lawyer representing Alpine Sand, John Van Lieshout, declined to comment. Attempts to reach the company were unsuccessful Monday.

Trempealeau County has found itself in the midst of a boom in the business of mining sand for the purpose of hydraulic fracturing, a technique used to release natural gas from shale formations. The sand found in Trempealeau County and other places in western Wisconsin is particularly prized in the fracking industry for its hardness and regular, round shape.

According to the DNR’s website, there were 135 operating frack sand mines, processing plants and rail-loading stations in Wisconsin by May 1. In 2010, there were only 10.

Local officials have not always looked with favor on the rapidly expanding industry. In August 2013, Trempealeau County officials placed a one-year moratorium on the approval of new mines, saying they needed time to study whether the operations harm the health of those living nearby.

The attempts at controlling mine development have backfired at times. Last week, Trempealeau County regulators admitted that they had ordered the wrong company to halt its operations after local officials had discovered violations at a separate mining site in Arcadia.

Rian Radtke, Trempealeau County corporation counsel, declined to comment for this article.

The Associated Press also contributed to this report.

About Dan Shaw, [email protected]

Dan Shaw is the managing editor at the Wisconsin Law Journal. He can be reached at [email protected] or at 414-225-1807.

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