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Observable air quality violations related to frac sand mining

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This page includes information about observable permit violations of the frac sand mining industry related to air quality violations.

About Air Quality and Frac Sand Mining:

Air pollution can be injurious to human health and welfare, animal and plant life, and property. In the frac sand mining industry, one major contributor to air pollution is the particulate matter that becomes airborne in the mining process and in transportation. In the state of Wisconsin, no person may cause, allow or permit any material to be handled, transported or stored without taking precautions to prevent particulate matter from becoming airborne. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources requires mining owners or operators to limit air pollution emissions through a permitting process the state approves. Any suspected non-compliance with these permits can be reported. Local air pollution control programs can bolster the measures the state puts in place (by NR 400-499).

What can be reported:

  • The presence of dust, smoke and fumes in the air (or any changes in the air caused by smoke, dust, gases, fumes, aerosols and odorous substances)
  • Uncovered trucks, rail cars or open conveyors that are transporting material from mining sites. These can lead to airborn materials.

Helpful information to collect for reporting air pollution:

  • Dated photographs including, location and if possible, geographic coordinates,
  • The type of air pollution:
    • Can you identify the sources of pollution? If so, what is it?
    • Can you identify what the material is that’s impacting the air quality?
  • Nature of the pollution:
    • How intense is the pollution?
    • Can you see through the pollution?
    • Is the pollution blurring your vision?
    • Would you describe the pollution as dust, smoke, haze or otherwise?
    • Is there anything else notable about the pollution (color, odor)?

Who to report to in Wisconsin:

  • The DNR state and/or regional departments (see DNR Reporting page)
  • Local contacts (see Local Reporting page)

Further information on Relevant Policies:

Air pollution which is defined as the presence of smoke, dust, gases, fumes in the air. The presence of these substances must also lead to injury on humans, animals or plants as well as interfere with the enjoyment of life or one’s property. NR 400.02
Fugitive dust. This refers to the presence in the air of dust from sources such as open fields and piles. There will be a violation on air quality when during handling, transporting and storing of materials, the people undertaking these activities do not take precaution and some of these materials end up being released into the air. NR 415.04
Causing, allowing or permitting solid or liquid hazardous substances into the air. This includes dust, soot, pollen, smoke and liquid droplets. One can spot that violation by simply observing the ambient air. NR. 415.05
Industrial sand mines are required to take precautions to ensure dust does not escape into the air. The precautions include covering, treatment or securing of materials likely to become airborne from haul trucks during transport, prior to any transportation off site from the quarry or mine. NR 415.075
Indoor fugitive emissions occur when an air contaminant present in a workplace; they may be emitted into ambient air from several sources. This applies to employees in a mining operation and the law provides that allowing or permitting emission of hazardous substances into the ambient air will be a violation. NR 445.02(8) & NR 445.03