State environmental officials are investigating a spill at a Jackson County frac sand mine that discolored water in the Trempealeau River.

According to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, the spill occurred Saturday at Wisconsin Proppants Hixton mine in the town of Curran, about 12 miles northwest of Black River Falls.

It’s not clear how much material was released or if it involved mine wastewater, which can contain high concentrations of toxic metals as well as chemicals used to process sand. DNR spokesman Andrew Savagian said the release was not stormwater runoff.

“We know there was a spill event at Wisconsin Proppants,” Savagian said. “We know it happened. We don’t know the impacts.”

The DNR took water samples Tuesday, which have been sent to the Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene to test for the presence of metals. Staff are scheduled to return to the site Wednesday to further assess the impacts and necessary cleanup.

Savagian said the plant operator, WP Operations, contacted the DNR and “has taken steps to mitigate the release and potential impacts.”

Plant manager Hamilton White referred questions to the DNR. “I’m really not at liberty to talk about it,” he said. “It’s not a major breach of any kind.”

WP Operations, a division of Turn-Key Processing Solutions, operates the 670-acre mine, which is owned by oilfield service provider Schlumberger.

You have free articles remaining.

Become a Member

Town chairman Dwight Swenson, who lives about half a mile from the mine, said he found signs of a spill Saturday morning on Curran Coulee Creek, a class III trout stream, and notified the DNR.

Swenson photographed orange-colored water in the creek and about 2 miles downstream where it enters the Trempealeau River, a tributary of the Mississippi River. He said water levels had receded Sunday but the water remained discolored Tuesday.

Be the first to know - Sign up for Breaking News

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Swenson said he’d been unable to get information from mine workers.

“I’m concerned for health, safety and welfare. This is all ending up in the Mississippi River,” he said. “If it is a wastewater pond … it’s dangerous stuff.”

Jackson County Board Chairman Ray Ransom said the county is also seeking information about the spill.

In May 2018, about 10 million gallons of sludge from a Trempealeau County mine made its way down the Trempealeau River and into the Mississippi River after workers at Hi-Crush Whitehall drained a holding pond to rescue a miner whose bulldozer slid into the processing water.

The DNR continues to monitor the environmental impact of that event, which resulted in elevated levels of heavy metals and other contaminants on neighboring farmland and in a Trempealeau River tributary.

Be the first to know - Sign up for Breaking News

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.