New DNR lead on frac sand gives first TV interview to News 18 - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Sandstorm of Business: The DNR's new voice at the top

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Eau Claire (WQOW) - The number of new frac sand mines may be leveling off, but citizen questions are not.

The DNR's new lead on frac sand issues is giving her first television interview to Eau Claire's Own News 18.

Deb Dix has been with the DNR for 23 years.  Last year, she worked with the Environmental Enforcement Program, which means she was involved in frac sand enforcement.  Now, she's the DNR's new lead on all frac sand issues, taking over for Tom Woletz, who retired.  "Citizens still have a lot of questions about regulation," said Dix.  Every week, she hears concerns from them.  "Quality, quantity, groundwater, air emission issues, concerns about that, truck traffic. What's it going to look like when it's done?"

Wisconsin's waters have been an area of concern.  In the past two years, the DNR has issued 22 violation notices to frac sand companies.  "The majority of them have been in the storm water.  Violations of storm water runoff, sediment reaching sometimes critical habitats," said Dix.

Last year in Burnett County, a hiker reported seeing cream-colored water in a creek that flows into the St. Croix River.  "In that case, it was a berm for a pond which it blew out... sediment started leaking through."  The spill was traced back to the Tiller Corporation, which has a sand mining facility near Grantsburg.  The case was so concerning, it was referred to the Department of Justice.

The DOJ is also investigating a case in Trempealeau County.  In May of 2012, there was a huge runoff at Preferred Sands in Blair following a storm.  "Trempealeau County has unfortunately been the one that's been the most inundated.  They have the largest number of sites and largest number of open sites... so maybe, it's just natural that that's the area we're going to see more problems just because of the higher number," said Dix.

Enforcement from the DOJ on both cases is pending.

Storm water pollution control is a hot button topic within the industry.  One picture shows a discharge outside the Great Northern Sand plant in New Auburn.

"Great Northern had a discharge to, they have wetlands that surround the facility."  The DNR says those are the Beaver Creek wetlands.  When people see a picture like that, they wonder what's in the water?  Sand... and what else... and to what extent is runoff a concern?

That's something Eau Claire's Own News 18 will address with Deb Dix on Tuesday night at 10 p.m.

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