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Wisconsin Firm Ordered to Pay for Air, Water Violations

Preferred Sands of Wisconsin was been ordered to pay $200,000 for stormwater and air permit violations at its facility near Blair, Wis., in Trempealeau County, according to the Post Crescent.

This is the first civil judgment brought against a frac sand mining company in Wisconsin, state Department of Justice spokeswoman Dana Brueck confirmed. The company will pay in installments, the final one due in 2017, according to documents released after the fact.

In May 2012, a plume of sediment-laden stormwater left the Preferred Sands site and flooded a creek and an adjacent wetland, according to a complaint filed by state Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen and Assistant Attorney General Cynthia Hirsch.

Sediment also traveled over nearby properties, including through the first floor of a home and into a garage on another property. A road was left with a 6-in. deep layer of sediment.

The company said in a statement that it acquired Winn Bay Sand in 2011, including the Blair plant. At that time, noncompliance concerns were identified. The statement said Preferred Sands disclosed the issues to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

The DNR determined that waste piles of sand had been too high and too steeply sloped, according to the complaint.

The 2012 events followed a 2011 incident in which a neighbor saw excessive runoff and sediment coming off the site. At that point, the facility was operated by Winn Bay, which later acknowledged that its stormwater detention pond was too small, the complaint said.

In its statement, Preferred Sands said storms in 2012 exacerbated “inherited matters” but that it resolved those problems and worked to prevent others.