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Wisconsin frac-sand firm paying $200,000 fine for causing pollution

BLAIR, Wis. (WTAQ) - For the first time, a frac-sand mining company in western Wisconsin is paying a large fine for causing pollution.  

The state Justice Department said Monday that Preferred Sands of Pennsylvania will pay $200,000 for causing mud to flow into a stream and neighboring properties at Blair in Trempealeau County.  

Officials said three heavy rainstorms in 2012 caused sediment to flow from the mining site onto four properties -- including the first floor of a house -- and it dumped up to six-inches of mud into a stream and a wetland.  

Preferred Sands bought the Blair mine in late 2011. The firm said it recognized non-compliance issues right away, and it tried resolving the problems before discovering they were more complex than originally thought.  

The Justice Department said the firm did not tell the whole story to the state DNR -- including waste on slopes that was never stabilized correctly.  

About 115 frac-sand mines have popped up in Wisconsin in recent years, producing fine sand for domestic oil exploration equipment.  

Critics have complained about environmental problems with mines -- and until recently, they cited a lack of enforcement efforts. Since August, the DNR said it referred three frac-sand violation cases to the Justice Department for prosecution. As of this summer, the state has issued 20 violation notices to 19 companies.

(Story courtesy of Wheeler News Service)