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MADISON — Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen announced today that his office obtained a judgment against Preferred Sands of Wisconsin, LLC (Preferred Sands), in Trempealeau County, for storm water violations at its 350-acre sand mining operation northwest of the City of Blair, Wisconsin. On December 12, 2013, Judge John A. Damon signed an order that judgment be entered against Preferred Sands in the amount of $200,000 to be paid to the State of Wisconsin as forfeitures, statutory charges and costs.
Preferred Sands acquired the site in December 2011 and began operating the sand mining operation on top of a bluff near Larkin Valley Creek in the northwest portion of the City of Blair. Wisconsin law requires such operations to prevent the discharge of pollutants from their operations by using physical controls and pollution prevention practices so that sediment and other contaminants are not discharged through storm water into natural streams, wetlands or groundwater. The civil complaint states Preferred Sands failed to notify the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) when it expanded production by processing 100 railcars of sand from a different site and expanding the footprint of the mining and stockpile operation at the site. The complaint further states that Preferred Sands failed to implement pollution prevention practices to prevent storm water from being contaminated when it came into contact with unprotected soils and roads connected to the site. Polluted sediment runoff was observed leaving the site on several locations in late 2011 and spring of 2012.
In a January 2012 report entitled “Silica Sand Mining in Wisconsin”, the DNR explains that although sand mining has occurred in Wisconsin for hundreds of years, there has been a recent dramatic increase in the number of sand mines due to a surge in hydrofracking, a technique used by the petroleum industry to extract natural gas and/or crude oil from rock formations. Hydrofracking requires a certain quality of sand and Wisconsin possesses high quality sand resources, resulting in a substantial rise in mining for frac sand, such as the operations at Preferred Sands.
“Wisconsin will continue to enforce its storm water protection laws to prevent related pollution of our ground and surface waters. Operators of all sand mines must be vigilant in their adherence to Wisconsin's environmental protection regulations,” Attorney General Van Hollen said.
This case was referred to the Wisconsin Department of Justice by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and prosecuted by Assistant Attorneys General Cynthia R. Hirsch and Diane L. Milligan.
Copies of the Summons and Complaint, Stipulation and Order for Judgment, and Judgment are available here.