ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A spill at a sand mining facility in Wisconsin has dumped an unknown amount of sand and other sediment into the St. Croix (kroy) River and wetlands near the Minnesota border.
Wisconsin DNR officials tell Minnesota Public Radio News it’s too soon to know how much damage was done.
Conservation officials learned of the leak on April 22, when a hiker reported seeing cream-colored water in a creek flowing to the St. Croix River. DNR investigators traced the murky water back to a sand mining facility operated by Maple Grove-based Tiller Corp., where they located a leak in a holding pond.
The sand is mined for use by the petroleum industry to help extract underground natural gas and oil supplies in a controversial practice called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.
By Pilar Gerasimo
The recent boom in hydrofracking for natural gas and oil has resulted in a little-reported side boom—a sand-rush in western Wisconsin and southeastern Minnesota, where we just happen to have the nation’s
richest, most accessible supply of the high-quality silica sand required for fracking operations.
Unfortunately, most of that silica sand lies beneath our beautiful wooded hills and fertile farmland, and within agricultural and residential communities, all of which are now being ripped apart by sand mines interests eager to get at the riches below. This open pit mining is, in many respects, similar to the mountaintop removal going on in Appalachian coal country—except that here, it’s hilltop and farm field removal. The net effect on our landscape, natural resources and communities is quickly becoming devastating. In the past few months, the sand rush has come to my own rural neighborhood in Dunn County, Wisconsin, which is about an hour east of St. Paul, Minnesota.
Like many residents in Dunn County, I’m concerned about the speed and intensity with which frac-sand mining interests are moving into our area. The proposals and applications for mines and related infrastructure are coming in so fast (our region has seen dozens just in the past few months), most small towns have been totally overwhelmed. Organizations trying to map and report all the activity literally cannot keep up with the incoming data.