Texas firm to pay Wisconsin $80,000 for pollution at sand plant

  • Article by: PATRICK MARLEY , Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
  • Updated: December 28, 2013 - 6:53 PM

 

– A Texas company operating a sand processing plant in Marshfield, Wis., will pay $80,000 to the state for violating Wisconsin’s air pollution laws and the terms of its pollution-control permit during construction.

A Wood County judge signed off on a settlement in the case on Dec. 19, and the state Department of Justice announced the deal Thursday.

The judgment is against Completion Industrial Minerals, which according to the complaint did not accurately update its permit application when its construction plans changed, continued construction after its permit expired, did not submit a fugitive dust plan with the state on time, did not keep daily records of precautions it was taking to mitigate dust levels, did not install a continuous emissions monitor and made other failings.

The company is to make quarterly payments to the state through 2019 to cover the $80,000 it owes in forfeitures, fines and court costs.

Most violations occurred as the plant was being built, according to the Department of Justice. Completion, of Fort Worth, Texas, cooperated with the Department of Natural Resources to fix the problems once the violations were identified, officials said.

Charles Sweeney, an attorney for Completion, said the problems emerged when a consultant for the company did not update its permit application when additional air-cleaning equipment was added to its operation.

The settlement was reached a week after the Justice Department settled a case with another sand mining company in western Wisconsin. Under that deal, Preferred Sands will pay $200,000 to the state stemming from pollution and operational problems that began in 2011 and led to massive amounts of mud flowing onto nearby properties and in a stream in Trempealeau County.

To date, six cases involving sand mining have been referred to the Justice Department by the DNR — three of them since August, according to the DNR. In August, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that the DNR had issued 20 notices of violations to 19 sand mining companies.

Sand mining has exploded in Wisconsin because the sand is ideal for hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, where sand, chemicals and water are injected into the ground under high pressure to extract oil and natural gas. Wisconsin sand is shipped around the country for that purpose.

Western Wisconsin has more than 115 sand mines and sand processing plants, according to the West Central Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission. In 2010, there were about 10 such mines and plants.

Environmentalists and residents near sand mines have raised worries about threats from air pollution and the effects on local waterways. While opponents have pushed the DNR to exert more regulation over the industry, some GOP lawmakers are trying to rein in the authority of local units of government.

Supporters say the sand industry has been an economic boon.

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