Hi Crush mine

Cleanup continues June 4 on farm fields from the May 21 spill of 10 million gallons of mine sludge at the Hi-Crush sand mine in Whitehall.

Material spilled during the rescue of a worker last month at a Trempealeau County sand mine contained elevated levels of arsenic, lead and other metals.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources released initial results late Wednesday afternoon of water samples taken after the May 21 spill at the Hi-Crush frac sand mine in Whitehall.

The tests show lead concentrations of more than 70 times the Environmental Protection Agency's drinking water limit in water sampled near where the spill entered Pocker Creek, which runs into the Trempealeau River. Arsenic was measured at more than 6 times the EPA limit.

There also were elevated levels of beryllium, cadmium, chromium, copper, and selenium; however, samples taken from the Trempealeau River show concentrations that meet surface water standards, said DNR spokesman Jim Dick.

The Trempealeau River was colored orange in the days after the spill as sediment from the mine made its way to the Mississippi River.

Dick said dissolved oxygen levels in both Pocker Coulee and the Trempealeau River were ”above the level needed to sustain aquatic life” and that the DNR is not aware of any fish kills resulting from the spill.

The tests were done on water samples taken within hours of the spill. Dick said additional samples have been taken since and the DNR will evaluate results as they come in to better understand the environmental impacts.

The DNR did not say if the contamination presents a threat to human health. On Monday the DNR said initial tests showed no signs of “immediate toxicity.”

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The Trempealeau County Health Department on Friday issued a release stating water in the Trempealeau River "does not pose an immediate health risk," although state and local officials are still evaluating the overall health concerns associated with the spill. 

Public health officials say people should avoid swallowing contaminated sediments and included the following recommendations:

  • Avoid areas that have orange sandy material, as they might be contaminated.
  • Wash after wading or swimming.
  • Watch children closely to make sure they do not eat any sand or sediment from the river.

Workers at the Hi-Crush mine in Whitehall drained a holding pond after a bulldozer slipped into the water. The driver escaped uninjured after about 2½ hours in the air-tight cab.

Hi-Crush officials said the pond contained mostly water, silt, clay and sand, though it could contain trace amounts of a polyacrylamide, which is used to remove silt from the water.

Jay Zambito, a geologist with the Wisconsin Geological and Natural History Survey, said the minerals identified in the test results are commonly found in the rock formations being mined in Trempealeau County and could be a source of the contaminants found in the process water.

“However, the spatial variability of the trace metal-bearing sulfide minerals in these rocks suggests that the potential for water contamination at a given mine would be site specific, and further detailed study is needed,” Zambito said.

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Chris Hubbuch can be reached at 608-791-8217. Follow him on Twitter @chrishubbuch.


(13) comments


Just a question for all the posters out there badmouthing the sand company. Not going to dispute the fact there were chemicals in the sludge pond, but what were they to do given there was a man trapped inside an airtight cab of a Dozer that slid into said pond, I'm assuming engulfing the cab of the Dozer? If these numbers hold up the company should be fined and monitored, but they didn't breach the pond without good cause. Just wondering what you folks would have done.


of course you save the man's life by breaching the pond. What people are pis*sed about is that it should of never came to that. Obviously the company did not follow safety procedures, and was cited for it. The public was never told by the state or corporations that these sand mines hold high levels of toxins in ponds. No one knew that till this spill happened. There was no clean up procedures in place in case of a spill. Scooter and his buddies in Madison have gutted environmental regulations to allow this type mining in this state. People should be upset when their natural resources get polluted, after it all it belongs to all of us, not corporations or politicians. the state knows this type of mining is going to contaminate drinking water too, and they don't care. The politicians have been bought and sold by Koch's and big oil.


Well yes, you hit the nail on the head. But the leftists, including the dolts at the Fibune, have downplayed that aspect from the get-to to manufacture a purely political aspect of this matter.

In a prior Op Ed, Dem Governor hopeful Ms Vinhout would seemingly have been willing to see the dozer operator parish, as well, to elevate her anti-business Chicken Little response.

Its amateur hour at the Dem headquarters.


Maybe there were two reports so each side could say, "See I told ya."


Either there are/were toxins or there are/weren’t. Only a governmental agency could skrew up something this simple. And liberals want the government to run healthcare. Did this guy need a heart transplant or a knee replacement. Heart transplant today, tomorrow, maybe not, let’s go with the knee. I choose to believe the first report, I guess the DNR is giving us a choice. King, walking across the street is an accident waiting to happen.


what are you talking about hoaxer? How did government skrew up? Its the sand mine company that messed up you idiot. The first report was preliminary, look that word up. You want to close your mind and believe all is well when it isn't.


The Hoaxer wants to "believe the first report" which wasn't a "report" at all, but false and misleading information released by a high-ranking official. Rather than believe science and facts, Hoaxer DELIBERATELY ignores the truth. It is unsurprising, since that is the standard practice for the fact-denying set that regularly denies climate science.


None of those metals nor the polyacrimide should have been in an unlined settling pond in the first place. I wonder if the unlined settling pond was described in their permit or the storm water management plan that would have been a condition of their stormwater discharge permit. Mining operators do not follow their own management plans which were submitted as a requirement of obtaining their environmental permits. Another problem is that the fees on the permits are so small that it doesn't pay for the DNR stormwater inspectors to perform adequate number of inspections of the operations.


Just two days ago the RDNR was spreading the lie that there was "no immediate toxicity." Dick needs to be fired for spreading lies based on false and misleading information. Taxpayers are funding an organization that is supposed to protect the environment, but is instead lying to protect an industry that is poisoning our land and water.


Lets get this straight...it took the DNR over two weeks to analyze the samples. Then it releases a report showing no dangerous toxicity. Then a day later release this report. World class incompetence.

If this story is true (must consider the source), the mine need to make amends, pay for the cleanup, pay a huge fine. If this is true, the mine seems to have blown it chance.


there you go right wind bags, high levels of toxins released into the river. That is what all these so called sand mines are, an accident waiting to happen. Now those toxins are in the food chain and nothing good will come of it. Eventually it ends up in our food supply too. We have to hold these companies to a much higher standard of safety. Much more oversight is needed no matter how much money they donate to scooter's reelection campaign.


Dont worry due to the DNRs timely information any pollution is by now in the Gulf of Mexico. Good thing the government is there to protect you.


shows how much you know. Some of those toxins have been ingested by the fish and other wildlife. It is in the food supply. You blame government, but its the mine corporation that did the polluting. You can sure rely on corporations to do the right thing huh redwall. Of course you can always blame the press for releasing this information. Better to be a know nothing than to deal with reality.

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