Health and environmental study for Wisconsin frac sand industry requested

September 18, 2014

The frac sand industry has breathed new life into Wisconsin's economy, especially in Trempealeau and Chippewa Counties. Seventy-five percent of the country's frac sand mines exist in the western part of the state, making it the country's top exporter of silica frac sand. 

However, Midwest Environmental Advocates, the nonprofit environmental law center, has expressed concern about the significant rise in frac sand mining activity. The number of open frac sand mines and processing centers have more than doubled in the past 2 years to over 140 active sites, according to data from the Wisconsin Center on Investigative Journalism.

Concerned with the possible environmental impact of this surge in activity, Midwest Environmental Advocates have submitted a 29-page petition document calling for a comprehensive health and environmental study. So far, the only analysis of the industry's impact has been a 2012 report that concluded a rise in facilities in the area could create possible negative impacts. 

"Frac sand mining is changing Wisconsin's environment, but our environmental protection agency — the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources — has neither evaluated the full scope of impacts, nor adapted its regulations to address the new hazards," a statement accompanying the petition read. "As the industry continues to expand, Wisconsin is falling behind its neighbors in studying and adequately regulating the public health and environmental impacts of frac sand mining."

Ensuring that frac sand mining organizations make efforts regulatory compliance is crucial in ensuring a safe future for western Wisconsin. With the rise in activity in this region, and the influx of new workers that may not be aware or have limited knowledge of industry best practices, environmental consultants can help protect both project stakeholders and local communities.